ANC Cadre Deployment: What is it?

Cadre deployment policy could be more accurately described as the cadre employment policy. It keeps ANC cadres employed while eroding the quality of our civil service.

“No employee of the public service may be favoured or prejudiced only because that person supports a particular political party or cause.”


  • Constitution of South Africa, section 197


What is cadre deployment?

South Africans are acutely aware of just how poor the quality of our civil service is. This is not because there are no capable professionals in the country, but simply because these are not the individuals who are employed in the civil service. The reason is the ‘cadre deployment’ policy of the African National Congress (ANC).

As critically important and destructive as this is, however, South Africans do not know what “cadre deployment” is.

Simply put, “cadre deployment” is when a political party sets out to achieve its strategic and ideological, goals by spreading its influence [read control] across all spheres of society by placing party activists in positions of power in institutions of state – which are constitutionally mandated to be impartial and serve society as a whole.

Sometimes punted as a programme initiated to ‘transform’ the civil service inherited from apartheid, it rapidly became clear that ‘transformation’  for the ANC meant  seizing all the ‘levers of power’ in the country.

In a recent article, Terence Corrigan, Institute of Race Relations (IRR) Project Manager,  described “cadre deployment” as follows: “Cadre deployment has been a feature of our lexicon since at least 1997. It is the idea that sits at the nexus between the ANC as the country’s ruling party and the state over which it presides. In broad terms, it was conceived of as a process by which the ANC sought to place its people in positions of authority in the state, as well as in other fields of influence.”

The ANC’s motivation for this is threefold:

  1. The ANC wishes to extend and amplify its own power and influence over both the public sector and the private sectors. In doing this, they expect to be able to influence ever larger spheres of activity across society.
  2. This control is geared at advancing the National Democratic Revolution (NDR) which is the ANC’s plan to turn South Africa into a socialist and then a communist state.
  3. On a more venal level, cadre deployment has also come to be used as a tool of patronage to reward those who remain loyal to the party and tow the party line.

While it has become resoundingly clear to everyone in the country that cadre deployment has failed (and was doomed to fail from its outset),  the ANC continues to insist that the issue lies in the implementation of this policy rather than with the policy itself. But its failures in implementation merely mirror the ethical and practical implausibility of its design.

Cadre deployment has undoubtedly undermined South Africa’s civil service and set back its development by many years. In some instances it has chipped away at key institutions of our democracy.

What is clear is that the cadre deployment policy could be more accurately described as the cadre employment policy. It keeps ANC cadres employed while eroding the quality of our civil service. This is to the benefit of the ANC, keeping its activists in clover. For the rest of us, it is coming at an ever-higher price, measured in failing service delivery, crumbling infrastructure and the very health of our democracy.

 Cover image source attached here.


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