The split in the ANC is a positive development for democracy, because it means that the ANC is no longer guaranteed majorities in every province in South Africa. And, when the ANC splits, the DA wins. We have won more seats against the ANC in by-elections than any other party.
Let us be clear about the reasons for the split in the ANC, however. The break-up is a direct result of the struggle for control between rival factions of a patronage-based system. And the lever of control is the ANC's cadre deployment policy, adopted formally in 1997.
The policy of cadre deployment, whereby party loyalists are dispatched to do the ruling party's bidding in the public service, local government administration and independent state institutions, has entrenched the ANC's power and created a closed circle of party cronies who reap the spoils of office.
Cadre deployment has also given the ANC's leadership cabal unsurpassed control over those institutions - such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) - which the Constitution designed and intended to limit the ruling party's power. It is the reason why the contest between rival factions in the ANC became so fierce in the run-up to Polokwane, and why state institutions such as the NPA became embroiled in an internal party conflict.
Once factionalism became rife within the ruling party, it was inevitable that cadres would use the institutions they led to fight battles on behalf of their political masters and persecute their political opponents.
Cadre deployment went undetected for what it was for so long because it was disguised by the fig-leaf of affirmative action. Now, more and more South Africans are beginning to see the policy for what it really is: a means to centralise power, accumulate wealth corruptly, and subvert the Constitution.
The DA recognised as far as back as 1997 that the practice would lead to a blurring of party and state. We warned that it would inevitably result in the cronyism and corruption that is the hallmark of the failed state.
Even COPE - the party that is the product of the split in the ANC, and some of whose leaders presided over and benefited from cadre deployment - has called for an end to the policy.
Perhaps that should not surprise us. The loss of absolute power often leads people to understand why independent institutions must check power abuse, and why peoples' life chances should depend on opportunities, ability and hard work, rather than their links to a patronage network. Maybe the leaders of COPE have learnt that lesson.
If so, it is a lesson learnt only very recently.
Last year, the ANC-run Amathole District Council appointed a municipal manager on instruction from the ANC's regional leadership. The chair of the ANC Regional Executive Council at the time was none other than Mluleki George, now a senior leader of COPE, claiming to defend the Constitution.
In making the appointment, the municipality ignored the recommendation of the 11-member representative selection panel which found the ANC's favoured candidate to be the weakest of the short-listed candidates. It also ignored two legal opinions which cautioned against making the appointment.
That is how the closed, crony society operates: the best candidate for the job is overlooked in favour of the candidate who can be trusted to further the ruling party's own interests. In the closed, crony society, government isn't viewed as a site of delivery to the people, or as a well-oiled administrative machine, but as an employment bureau for party loyalists, families and friends, and a means of dispensing patronage.
Thankfully in South Africa we have institutions that check and balance the closed, crony system. In one of the most important court cases in recent South-African history, the High Court found (see judgment here) that the municipality had ignored its own recruitment policy, which stipulates that fair recruitment and selection procedures have to be followed; that candidates have to be selected objectively and on merit; and that individuals have to be recruited to positions on the basis of qualifications and suitability. The municipality also disregarded key provisions of the Municipal Systems Act and Section 195 of the Constitution.
The High Court criticised the Regional Executive Council of the ANC for its "unauthorised and unwarranted intervention in the affairs of [the Amathole District] Council" and the Council for "succumbing to a political directive from an external body, regardless of the merits of the matter". It set aside the appointment and substituted the decision with an order forcing the municipality to appoint the best candidate for the job.
The High Court verdict is a searing indictment of the cadre deployment policy. It should sound alarm bells for ANC that the time has arrived to abandon cadre deployment once and for all, and it should prompt Jacob Zuma to set the ball in motion.
But he will not do this, because he needs the policy of cadre deployment for his own political survival. He needs to deploy members of his clique to institutions of state to protect himself. That is why Zuma is allegedly trying to have his former defence attorney, Muzi Wilfred Mkhize, appointed as the National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP), so that Mkhize can make the case against Zuma go away. Why would Zuma want an independent person as the NDPP when he is facing allegations of 783 counts of bribery over 10 years involving R4.2-million?
Zuma has done everything to avoid his day in court in order to gain the power of the Presidency. If he does become President, it is likely that he - more so than Thabo Mbeki - will abuse the office to protect and enrich himself and his clique. Cadre deployment is one of the key tools of abuse.
Unless we get rid of it now, South Africa will become a failed state, like Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe , where corrupt leaders have made poor people poorer.
It is time to say no to the closed circle of corrupt ANC cronies, no to cadre deployment, and yes to the DA's vision of an open, opportunity society. In the open, opportunity society it is the best person for the job who is appointed, not the best person for the party. We will stop cadre deployment once and for all.
This is an extract of a speech by Democratic Alliance leader, Helen Zille, at a public meeting, Orient Theatre, East London, February 4 2009
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