Counting on cadres, that’s our Number 1

mute Penguins vies with a moot point over cadres.
William Sweetlove’s Penguin statue at the Waterfront in Cape Town.

My gaze was fixed on William Sweetlove’s steel Penguin at the Waterfront in Cape Town when a group dressed in colourful red shirts scrambled over the swing bridge of the small boat harbour just before the gates closed.

I engaged with the group and established that they were taking a break at the Waterfront as tourists. Silk-screening on their shirts indicated their attendance at the EFF’s 3rd regional peoples (sic) assembly.

Now, I’m not one of those mature fellows who has the 20:20 vision necessary to enable me to recognise a cadre at 20 paces. So I don’t know if my newfound friends Thobile and Faith are EFF cadres. Julius himself was a former cadre of sorts before his ascent to the throne of an opposition party leader.

For more than 20 years we’ve felt the dubious impacts of cadre deployment (

Thobile and Faith at the Waterfront with the writer.

Thobile and Faith, both of whom are 38 years old, had only just begun to wrestle with the emotional ups and downs of puberty when the ANC came to power. But I didn’t feel the time was opportune to canvass their views on cadre deployment as a policy avidly supported by our president.

In my view, cadre deployment sucks.

Definition of cadre

As a point of departure, let’s peruse the definition provided by Merriam-Webster: A cadre is (1) a nucleus or core group especially of trained personnel able to assume control and to train others; broadlya group of people having some unifying relationship or (2) a cell of indoctrinated leaders active in promoting the interests of a revolutionary party.

There you have it. And those definitions explain a lot. What they don’t explain is the deep-seated motivation behind the ANC’s determination to continue with a policy (point 2 above) that is patently a failure. The consequences of the policy have been disastrous.

Consistency is the only positive that has emerged from the failed policy.

I mean, think about it.

All a cadre has to do is go out there and make a total screw-up, preferably with legal implications.

That opens the door for a whistle-blower (some of whom may well be a cadre with a conscience) to send a note to the free press (excluding the Surve ‘news’ sheets) to spread the news of another major misdemeanour.

After a few months or years, the tainted cadre will have issued a horde of denials (also known as the denial policy perfected by Zuma himself). As the public outcry reaches a crescendo, in steps the deployment committee.


Mr Clean, David Mabuza, has been known to take a break from his lengthy attendance at the Bolshoi Ballet to cast his jaundiced eye over mouth-watering new posts for dodgy candidates.


Of course, it may not have escaped your notice when you read the definition of a cadre that the word trained is included, as is the word control. The ANC definition of cadre has morphed into something different from common parlance. That’s if party members have ever read definition (1) above.


Examples of cadre deployment


Let’s take a look at a few examples of how consistency has been at the forefront of cadre deployment.


Just look at the ‘Hat’, a Minister of Police whose hands are anything but clean. Where was he when Zuma minions turned a blow torch on South Africa’s economy to cut a swathe of destruction and looting in KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng?


In all likelihood, he was waiting for a Transnet train guided safely off the rails by the Minister for all Seasons (and good at none) Fikile Mbalula. He’s renowned for promising the earth and delivering only dust.


As the former Minister of Sport, Mbalula should have blown the whistle on the incumbent Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa who, until a few days ago, would have won an Oscar for his performance as a mime artist.

Very few words escape Mthethwa’s lips, even after starving professional artists had camped in the foyer of his headquarters for months. They were trying without success to earn his sympathy.

His department was supposed to have distributed millions in government aid for artists left penniless as a result of the Covid lockdown. No money has been handed over and no explanations given about where the money went. The minister remains silent.

However, he was moved to pull on his jodhpurs and mount that oft-used warhorse called ‘transformation’ when South Africa’s Olympic squad returned from Japan with only three medals. He was so busy looking for his quirt and riding gloves that he completely overlooked the need to pay well-earned bonuses to our two superb medallists, both of whom are women.

But I’m doing Comrade Mthethwa a disservice by implying he doesn’t do very much apart from practising his artform in front of a mirror.

After all, it was his department that stepped off the pavement to lay a cloak across the quagmire of more than 1 500 ‘irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditures’ by the CEO and chief accountant at the Robben Island Museum (RIM). Our famous world heritage site has been in the news for all the wrong reasons for more than a decade.

Their misdemeanours were identified in a forensic audit. That report has been locked away and may never see the light of day. While re-allocating R21.5 million from the capital budget to pay for operational costs, the department has withdrawn disciplinary hearings against the two senior managers and instructed them to put a plan in place to stop the rot. Ja well, no fine.

Further afield, that ever-so-gentle South African Cabinet shakeout, registering close to zero on the Richter Scale, served to shake loose that soldier of fashion, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

Was an emergency meeting of the redeployment committee called?

It seemed that someone wearing Usain Bolt’s 100m spikes was summoned to effect a fast decision about where to place the ousted cabinet minister.

No sooner had the former minister of defence shucked off her Cabinet robes than she, as the bastion of accountability, drew on the heavyweight robes of the Speaker of Parliament. That’s where she will preside over a parliamentary investigation into her lack of accountability in her previous job.

A novel with a plot as bizarre as the events in the paragraphs above would have been red-lined by any self-respecting book editor. The words ‘this is just too bizarre’ would have been hissed through clenched teeth.

We can’t anticipate a rewrite of the cadre deployment policy anytime soon.

Cadre deployment and redeployment is a fact of life in South Africa today. Our President says so, our Deputy President puts the wax seal on such activities, and the people of South Africa suffer the consequences.

Will we ever hear, after the words ‘my fellow South Africans’, an announcement that a cabinet comprising qualified and experienced people from all parties has been appointed? That the policy of cadre deployment has been abandoned in favour of a policy to appoint people to positions for which they have been trained.

That the selection of candidates for election as public representatives at any level of government will be based on criteria that result in only capable people being elected. And that any elected representative or official who breaks the law, or is under suspicion of having broken the law, steps down voluntarily until the matter is finalised. Timeously. And when accountability ( achieves its rightful role in our society.

Is hope enough as we head towards a future as a failed state?

Time will tell.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Safrea or its members.


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