Ramaphosa’s endorsement of Pandor: Can ANC choose excellence over loyalty?

With Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa under fire for announcing his preferred Top Six, YONELA DIKO argues that the move might be in the interest of the ANC that goes for competence over rewarding loyalty. 

Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was widely criticized, rightfully so, even by his avid supporters for announcing his preferred Top Six to contest elections at the upcoming ANC elective congress this December. Although most of the names he announced were already nominated widely at ANC Branches, the problem, as stated by Secretary General and as acknowledged by Ramaphosa himself, was that the nomination of candidates for ANC conferences remains the prerogative of ANC Branches and no one, even a frontrunner like him, must be seen to be either influencing branches in how they should vote or be seen to be dictating to Branches on how they should nominate.

The second element that caused even more unease was his inclusion of comrade Naledi Pandor as his preferred candidate for Deputy President, a name that has not featured much in the nomination processes by branches, at least not in the Top Six. Many people felt that in a conference of numbers as has characterize all ANC conferences, Naledi Pandor, unlike the rest of the other candidates, does not really bring numbers or a solid constituency that can shift the conference in Ramaphosa’s favour. People wondered what he was thinking in choosing Naledi Pandor as his deputy.

I would like to believe Ramaphosa anticipated the reaction, at least from some quarters, but felt there was a bigger message he needed to send out. It is true that Naledi Pandor neither has the numbers nor the political base that can pull the conference from the clutches of the other side. That, however, may well have been the whole point in choosing her. ANC conferences, in their most ideal sense, are supposed to choose the best and most capable candidates not only for running the ANC as an organization but for running the State apparatus.

Naledi Pandor brings only this – an excellent record of professionalism and governing capacity even by the best standards. She has led the most difficult and technical portfolios in government with stars behind her and the Deputy President may therefore, by her nomination, be throwing the ball in ANC delegate’s court; can they elect candidates purely on the basis of capacity and excellence and not loyalty or political base?

Naledi Pandor also brings a clean, thrift and scandalous-free record – something that is a breath of fresh air after 10 years of ANC government riddled with scandals that have knocked the party’s reputation to its lowest levels in 105 years.

Naledi Pandor therefore represents what the people have been asking of the ANC for over 10 years – a competent, clean, professional and ethically upright ANC – and the Deputy President may have felt it is important to send a message that he was prepared to lose than to assemble a team of incompetent and scandalous candidates because of their perceived ability to bring numbers. This is exactly what a Ramaphosa Presidency represents to most people. The risk Ramaphosa took was, for all intents and purposes, necessary and important to take.

In 2012, Professor Modimowabarwa Kanyane, an Acting Director at the HSRC’s (Human Science Research Council) democracy, governance and service delivery programme, ringed an alarm then that according to their research, “One conclusion that seems to be common is that the ANC’s deployment strategy systematically places loyalty ahead of merit and even competence. She further said that, “Politically connected and, in many cases, incompetent people are deployed to positions, leading to demoralisation in the public service,”.

The current Cabinet, almost all coming from the outgoing NEC, has been filled with what many saw as loyalists who were said to be rewarded with positions for standing behind their man. This has resulted in overblown cabinets and departmental advisers in order to accommodate loyalty and retain affirmation. Lack of merit is seen as the one major reason for the poor performance of government at all levels. The ANC Government is seen as lacking a good pool of professionals with requisite skills because they are viewed as disloyal or easily influenced to reject unprincipled decisions.

The truth, however, is that the ANC is not devoid of the best minds and skill to give this country a leap forward on development. As the ANC Elective Congress gets underway next month, the delegates must think beyond ANC but about Government. Most NEC members will end up in Parliament and in Cabinet.

We must therefore choose our NEC with that governing burden in mind. We must ask ourselves whether the NEC members we will choose have the requisite skills to serve our country in the critical work of the Executive and the constituency work of Parliament.

The only thing that will save the ANC are ANC delegates who will remain true to ANC values – selfless dedication to the struggle, Batho Pele (people first), a commitment to implement the policies of the movement and the decisions of the collective, which would be a complete repudiation to the past 10 years of selfishness and self-enrichment, disdain of the people and their concerns, and leaders who have show little regard for collective leadership.

ANC Branches believe in these values. ANC delegates are the standard bearers of these values, and they must be guided by them in choosing the next ANC leadership collective.

As William Shakespeare so eloquently said: “This above all: to thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man”.

ANC Branches, in their nomination thus far, have shown that they value competency more than ‘loyal incompetence’. To this, they have been true. ANC Branches today have 23 years of evaluating competency and therefore have no reason to nominate anyone who seeks to be rewarded with positions for loyalty. To this, Branches must be true. ANC Branches today know that competency and loyalty can be bi-directional. To those who are competent and represent the organization with excellence in their given portfolios, the Branches must be loyal to them.

I would like to believe this is the direction the Deputy President would like to take the organization. An ANC that is loyal and supportive to all its leaders who show great dedication to their work and willingness to give their best at all times.

The Top Six, as announced by Deputy President, represents all these. It however can equally be replaced by equally capable cadres who represent all these values.

It was however important for the standard to be set and Ramaphosa took the risk.

Diko is a political and social commentator

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