DA loses cadre deployment fight

The DA Federal leader John Steenhuisen and the DA's Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration Leon Schreiber address the media after the high court in Pretoria delivered the its ruling on cadre deployment. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

The DA Federal leader John Steenhuisen and the DA's Shadow Minister for Public Service and Administration Leon Schreiber address the media after the high court in Pretoria delivered the its ruling on cadre deployment. Picture: Oupa Mokoena / Independent Newspapers

Published Feb 22, 2024


Like any other political party, the ANC is entitled to influence government decisions, including the appointment of senior staff to public administration. This, as long as the bright line between state and party is observed.

This is according to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, which turned down the DA’s application to overturn the ANC’s cadre deployment policy.

Three judges, led by Deputy Judge President Aubrey Ledwaba, said it goes without saying that influencing government decisions is not the same as political meddling in the affairs of government.

The fight is, however, far from over, with the DA saying shortly after yesterday’s defeat that it has already instructed its legal team to appeal this ruling as a matter of urgency.

DA leader John Steenhuisen, who addressed the media outside court, vowed that they will appeal the matter before the Supreme Court of Appeal and even take the issue to the Constitutional court.

Judge Ledwaba, who wrote the 40-page judgment, in a concurring judgment upheld the ANC’s defence that there is no properly pleaded constitutional attack by the DA against the ANC’s cadre deployment policy.

The court found that “the DA came to court with a case built on speculation and conjecture”.

“Corruption knows no boundaries. It inflicts great harm on society. For that reason it ought not to be used by political parties to pursue political objectives,” the court said in slapping the DA with the ANC’s legal costs in this application. It includes the costs of five counsel.

The court said the question is whether in launching these proceedings, the DA sought to vindicate a constitutional right. “The answer is no,” the court said.

The DA asked the court to declare the ANC’s cadre deployment policy inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid.

Steenhuisen said in an affidavit filed to substantiate the application that the evidence that the DA relies on, largely emanates from the State Capture commission.

He said the cadre deployment policy of the ANC is to permit it to influence which individuals are appointed to, and employed by important state institutions.

In doing so, the DA said, the policy ensures that all levels of state power are controlled by those who are loyal to the ANC.

It argued that the effect is that the ANC, rather than the state, has control over the functioning of critical institutions of government.

“Loyalty to the ANC is prized above merit, competence and ability and is a precondition for appointments to key institutions in the state,” Steenhuisen said.

He added that the evidence at the State Capture commission demonstrated that the ANC’s cadre deployment policy has incapacitated important state institutions, blurred the lines between the ANC and the state, and facilitated state capture and poor service delivery.

The DA strongly argued that it is impermissible of the ANC or any political party to influence appointments to the public services.

But the ANC argued that there is nothing impermissible in this regard and that deployment by senior personnel by political parties to the public administration is not unique to South Africa. It is practised in many countries across the world.

The ANC said its policy recommends candidates, it does not dictate to government who should be appointed. Party policy is that the person best qualified for the job must get it and it’s entirely up to government to decide who is appointed, the ANC told the court.

It said it does not only recommend party members for governmental positions, although it prefers candidates who uphold the party’s ideals.

The court questioned whether it should reject this explanation as implausible. “The short answer is no,” Judge Ledwaba said.

He added that the DA did not provide the court with a shred of admissible evidence that the cadre deployment committee, among others, influenced the appointment of judicial officers.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, in his opposition to the application, referred the court to a study which found that political involvement in public administration is essential for the proper functioning of democracy.

The study found that more political influence in staff may work well if there are checks and balances.

“It follows that there is nothing unconstitutional about a political party influencing the policy direction of a government, including the appointment of senior personnel to public service, as long as the public service is protected against misuse for partisan purposes,” the court said.

Leon Schreiber, DA spokesperson on public service and administration, meanwhile said there can be no more urgent constitutional matter than challenging a governing party that, by its own admission, has obliterated the distinction between party and state, in order to capture institutions for its own advantage.

“All this has been underscored by the ANC's own records recently obtained by the DA following an order of the Constitutional Court. The minutes reveal that the ANC unlawfully interfered with appointments across the state, reaching all the way to the highest court in the land.”

He added that the DA will take on this battle until it establishes the principle of an independent professional state that serves all the people, not merely the ruling party.

In applauding the judgment, national spokesperson for the ANC, Mahlengi Bhengu-Motsiri said the DA’s application was legally unsound and hypocritical. “Cadre deployment cannot be faulted in principle and it is a common feature of democratic practice around the world,” she said.

Pretoria News

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