Deployment Blues

2009-10-24 13:46

A FUNNY thing happened last week, when the African National Congress government blamed the party’s policies for the breakdown of service delivery throughout the country. Funny, because we are not accustomed to the party accepting any culpability for anything; but good at any rate, because it was way past the time for it to happen.

As City Press reported last Sunday, the ANC has fingered its ­deployment policy for having crippled service delivery in the municipalities the party runs, as “cadres” have expended their energies on faction-fighting instead of serving the people who elected them.

A report commissioned by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Sicelo Shiceka does not pull any punches. It refers to a culture of “patronage and nepotism” in municipalities, making them inaccessible and unaccountable to residents.

In some parts of the country, such as in Eastern Cape, sewerage systems are not working and water and sanitation services cannot be extended.

“The lack of values, principles or ethics ... indicates that there are officials and public representatives for whom public service is not a concern but accruing wealth at the expense of poor communities is,” the report says.

It also identifies a lack of financial skills and poor controls for rendering the system “open to abuse and fraudulent activity”.

Shiceka’s deputy, Yunis Carrim, told City Press: “We have found that there are people who are appointed to positions who don’t have the necessary experience or qualifications, nor are they interested in being trained.”

Now the governing party is considering doing away with deploying party officials to municipal positions and instead leaving these jobs to “professionals”. Imagine that.

This would be a very welcome move. Provided it is followed through.

Many of us know professionals who would like to contribute to this beloved country of ours, realising its potential, but who are lost to the private sector or overseas countries.

These are people who have been knocking on the public service door for years, but whose applications for jobs they are qualified for always end up in the dustbin, many without even being invited for an interview, in favour of less qualified comrades.

Their crime is that they are not members of the ANC or that they are not connected to the inner-circle of the party.

One hopes that this revelation in the governing party will translate into changes that are not limited to appointments in municipalities. From state enterprises to universities, deployment has been the serpent that has brought these institutions to their knees – you don’t have to look any further than the SABC for the most blatant example of that.

What has happened in the (non) appointment of a chief executive for Transnet is a red flag warning us that we are still stuck in the mud of this deplorable deployment policy. Siyabonga Gama may or may not have been among the top four candidates for the job. That depends on which side one believes.

However, there is no question that Justice Minister Jeff Radebe publicly declared that the Trans­net CEO job belonged to Gama, even though he was suspended for allegedly awarding a R19?million contract to a security firm with alleged links to Communications Minister Siphiwe Nyanda.

“Some of us will ensure that he gets the job,” Radebe said.

In the months since the April elections – the same period during which Shiceka’s report was being researched – we have seen massive cadre deployment at provincial and national government level. Even the Judicial Service Commission has not been exempt.

That’s why even though we welcome that the ANC now partially sees what some of us have been showing it for years, we will not be uncorking those champagne bottles yet.

) Mda is deputy editor

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