Malaika Mahlatsi26 June 2024 | 6:29

MALAIKA MAHLATSI: The DA’s shameless hypocrisy on cadre deployment

Ironically, as soon as the DA assumed state power through its participation in the GNU, its first demand was to be given space to not only implement cadre deployment, but also to interfere with procurement and supply chain processes of government, writes Malaika Mahlatsi.

MALAIKA MAHLATSI: The DA’s shameless hypocrisy on cadre deployment

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) KwaZulu-Natal Rescue South Africa tour campaign at the Currie Stadium in Durban on 11 May 2024. Picture: Xanderleigh Dookey Makhaza/Eyewitness News

A while back, I came across an interesting definition of liberals and liberalism.

According to one Willis Player: "A liberal is a person whose interests aren’t at stake at the moment."

Of course, it wasn’t the first time that I had encountered such a definition – versions of it have been articulated throughout history. The most comprehensive of these articulations came from Steve Biko, the co-founder of the South African Students Organisation (SASO) and a key figure in the Black Consciousness Movement.

It was especially in his 1971 paper, White racism and Black Consciousness, which was delivered at a student conference hosted by the Abe Bailey Institute for Inter-racial Studies in Cape Town, that Biko succinctly unpacked the question of the White liberal and White allies in relation to the struggle against colonialism and apartheid.

Biko, in his criticism of liberals and White consciousness, contends that despite enjoying confidence from the Black world, the White liberal establishment poses a significant danger to the total emancipation of Black people.

He argues that the allyship of White liberals is rooted not only in a sense of White guilt, but also in a kind of God complex in which the White liberal sees him/herself as a saviour of the oppressed native with whom he/she supposedly fully identifies.

But the claim by White liberals of total identification with an oppressed group in a system that forces one group to enjoy privilege and to live on the sweat of another, argues Biko, is impossible.

Biko goes on to articulate the meaning and ideals of Black Consciousness, and to assert the humanity and humanness of those whom the system wishes to dehumanise, de-civilise and render invisible.

It’s a profoundly important essay that bears as much relevance today as it did 53 years ago when it was delivered.

Biko’s paper, and Player’s definition of liberals, came to mind a few days ago as I read the letter from the Federal Council chairperson of the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the secretary-general of the African National Congress (ANC), Fikile Mbalula.

The letter, dated 24th of June, outlines the DA’s demands in the Government of National Unity (GNU), of which it is part. These demands are specifically for the positions that the DA wishes to occupy in the Cabinet of the 7th administration, which is yet to be announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

ANC - Multiparty Government - Fikile Mbalula (230_240624_143722 by Nica Schreuder on Scribd

Among the demands that the DA makes is representation across all Cabinet clusters. The party even goes as far as to identify precisely which portfolios it prefers in each cluster, as well as state what reconfigurations of ministries and state-owned enterprises (SOEs) it wants to have.

But it is what the DA says about government administration that begs for reflection.

The party argues that it wants Director Generals (DGs) who report to DA ministers to be “selected by panels consisting of DA ministers” and that “the contacts of all current DGs would also need to be reconsidered in light of our concern that incumbents may not be amenable to direction from DA ministers, especially given the ANC’s Cadre Deployment Policy”.

Without any sense of irony, the DA then goes on to argue that even tenders in departments reporting to DA ministers issued since the promulgation of the election be subject to review, on account that it’s “not possible to effect change in a context where recent decisions by the previous government are rendered irreversible”.

A lot can be said about the DA’s unreasonable demands that do not reflect its position not only in the GNU, but in South Africa broadly.

The DA obtained 21.81% of the total vote, the second highest after the ANC, which obtained 40.18% of the vote.

The electoral support of the DA must be understood in context. Two important facts must be stated. The first is that at 58.64%, the voter turnout for the 2024 election was the lowest of any general election in the democratic dispensation.

The second is that the DA had a popular vote of just over 3.5 million in a country where there are 27,672,264 eligible voters, according to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).

And so, statistically speaking, the DA actually enjoys support from roughly 12% of the South African voting population.

But more interesting than the DA’s colossal demands relative to its nanoscopic support is the brazenness with which the party has exposed its hypocrisy on cadre deployment.

Over the past few years, and leading up to the 2024 general election, the DA has been making a lot of noise about the ANC’s cadre deployment policy weakening the government and posing a great danger to the building of a capable state.

The party even went as far as the apex court of the land, the Constitutional Court, to fight its case, demanding that the ANC release its cadre deployment records with the intention of using these to further demonise the practice.

The DA won this case, adding more ammunition into its anti-cadre deployment arsenal that included the (liberal) media that has been regurgitating the same simplistic and intellectually fraudulent claims of the “irrationality” of cadre deployment.

And yet, as soon as the DA assumes state power through its participation in the GNU, its very first demand is to be given space to not only implement cadre deployment, but also to interfere with procurement and supply chain processes of government, something that sets the greatest parameters for corruption.

Now, the same DA that argued that it was wrong for the ANC to deploy its own cadres into the bureaucracy is demanding to do exactly that, posing the very same argument that the ANC has always advanced: that bureaucrats, if they’re to be effective, must understand and support the policy trajectory of the governing party.

The DA that supposedly doesn’t believe in cadre deployment now wants to deploy its own cadres into the bureaucracy because they can be trusted to implement its policies.

The party claims that this is necessitated by the ANC’s own cadre deployment. Thus, evidently, the mindless proposition of the DA is that cadre deployment is needed to eliminate cadre deployment.

No rational human being can argue that more poverty is needed to fight poverty. Equally, no serious party can advance the illogical, hypocritical and philistine argument that the DA and its allies within the (liberal) media want South Africans to accept.

The DA's hypocrisy on cadre deployment is not the only symptom of its perennial deception and endless capacity for dissembling. The party is the very definition of cognitive dissonance.

The "equal opportunity” champions who exist in a South Africa that has no colonial and apartheid history that has shaped its contemporary realities is very often found talking centre and walking right.

It affirms the criticism that Biko levels against the liberal establishment to which the party belongs.

It is, as Biko correctly characterises it, a convergence point of those who have arrogated themselves the right to think on behalf of Black people, and to cement its ideas as superior.

This is precisely why the DA believes that cadre deployment can only be sensible if it’s advanced by party. If it’s advanced by the ANC, it is dangerous and corrosive.

The message is clear: Black people, the predominant group in the ANC, are incapable of rational thought. Thinking, theorising and rationalising is a preserve of the DA.

And as we now know, the ideas of the ANC are not deplorable to the liberal sensibilities of the DA. They are, in fact, acceptable, but under one condition: that they are used to advance the interests of the DA and its constituency.

Player’s assessment was spot on. Indeed, a liberal is a person whose interests aren’t at stake at the moment.

Malaika is a geographer and researcher at the Institute for Pan African Thought and Conversation. She is a PhD in Geography candidate at the University of Bayreuth in Germany.