The Hypocrisy of Our Democracy

democracy governance accountability
Wednesday, 10 June, 2015 - 10:58

In this article, the author zooms into South Africa’s democracy and things that should be considered to ensure that this democracy is not compromised

The mandate placed on the transitional government post the apartheid regime, was to maintain peace in the context of our country, with particular regard to the avoidance of civil wars which have been historically perceived as the way in which regimes change… and despite the fighting that occurred between 1990-1994, on the whole, the mandate was fulfilled.

Fast-forward, to the Government of our time, whose mandate maintains only to make positive steps towards ensuring that the country’s wealth is distributed in a manner which is beneficial for all its citizens. The question is then, how effective has this been? Is it still an issue of ‘time’ and how we can’t expect rapid change to occur or are there other issues underlying this situation? I’m going to try to bring about a fairly balanced argument- which, at some points may not seem so balanced due to my intense ‘dislike’ of corruptive forces and actions. I will argue this topic under the points of land reform, and cadre deployment - but before I go on to do so, I think it is important for me to outline that I am extremely in favour of a majority of policies out there that seek to enrich and maintain this democracy of ours.

However, I believe that the implementation leaves much to be desired.

On the issue of land reform, we have seen calls to speed up the process as timelines have not been met with regards to the various goals set out in this issue.

Section 25 of the Constitution deals with property rights in South Africa. In this section, the constitution attempts to balance private property rights with is role within the public.

In the Property clause section 25(1) it states that ‘no one may be deprived of property except in terms of law of general application, and no law may permit arbitrary deprivation of property. The question of what amounts to arbitrary deprivation amounts to the non-compensation of the land to the current owner if it is expropriated, as well as a variety of other issues as per the other regulations provided by the constitution. The section protects property rights while at the same time provides for the expropriation of property, provided that the expropriation is duly authorised, for a public purpose or in the public interest, is procedurally fair and provided that ‘just and equitable’ compensation is paid. ‘Public interest’ is inclusive of the nation’s commitment to land reform. The section further goes onto distinguish that individuals who were deprived of ownership and access to land will be prioritised when new legislation (Acts) that provide for the restitution of that land. The problem that exists, I believe, is the issue of how effectively can the country try to balance the role of property in the public and private spheres. I do agree that land reform is necessary, but the issue of non-compensation does not bode well for relations in our country. Honestly, whether we like it or not, the economy of our country does to a large extent depend on the buy-in and participation of the individuals who currently have the land- and essentially, we should do everything in our power to avoid ending up like Zimbabwe.

Now to this whole idea of ‘cadre deployment’, Paul Hoffman writes, in ‘':

There seems to be much muddled thinking on the topic of cadre deployment in current political discourse…

Cadre deployment within the structures of the tripartite alliance is hardly exceptionable. The Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of association and political organisation. The alliance is accordingly free to deploy its cadres within party structures as it sees fit. The African National Congress (ANC) cadre deployment committees at national, provincial and local level covertly attend to the business of cadre deployment - but, crucially, they do not confine their activities to party structures. Rather like the Broederbond of old, their tentacles are spread into the public service, state-owned enterprises, regulatory bodies and business activities of strategic value to the ANC.

As far as the public administration is concerned, cadre deployment has been struck down as illegal and unconstitutional. This was decided in the unchallenged decision of the Eastern Cape High Court in the case of Mlokoti v Amathole District Municipality and Another. Vuyo Mlokoti was not a cadre, but he was the best qualified candidate for the post of municipal manager in Queenstown. The local cadre deployment committee of the ANC did not allow this to stand in its way and deployed a cadre to take up the post.

In the ensuing successful review, the judge said: “Section 195 of the Constitution is also relevant, providing as it does that public administration at all levels of government be governed by the democratic values of and principles that efficient, economic and effective use of resources must be promoted and that good human resource management and career development practices, to maximise human potential, must be cultivated.”

Indeed, the constitution has subordinated all organs of state to a new regimen of openness and fair dealing with the public. As Judge Edwin Cameron put it in Van Niekerk v Pretoria City Council: “In short, it is expected of organs of state that they behave honourably. Their decisions and their conduct must be informed by the values of our constitution.”

The constitution does not make any provision for cadre deployment. On the contrary, state employees are entitled to fair labour practices and to the benefit of good human resource management practices. It is not anything of the kind to leave the appointment of public servants to the devices of the cadre deployment committees of the governing elite. Opacity and cronyism displace openness and accountability when back rooms are the venue for the appointment (deployment) of members of the public administration.”

With that in mind, I feel that cadre deployment is essentially flawed and generally limits the amount of development that occurs as the individuals placed in specific positions aren’t necessarily the best for the job, and this system further cause inequality on the basis of wealth and skills.

Our democracy has its flaws (as do those of other countries), yes and many of which have the potential to be fixed but cannot due to the way in which power is centralised in this country, under the guise of ‘the public interest’. We in turn, bear the onus to hold those we put into leadership to account for their statements, as well as their actions…

- Brian Bhengu is a coordinator at the Democracy Development ProgrammeSource:

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