How ANC WhatsApp groups influence government appointments in South Africa

 ·22 Feb 2024

Recently published documents related to the ANC’s cadre deployment committee have revealed that several important positions in the government were advertised, discussed, and candidates presented to the committee over WhatsApp.

What has been shown through the conversations is that the process of appointment was sometimes as simple as suggesting a name and sometimes influenced by service to the party – which has raised questions about the fairness of the recruitment process.

Screenshots of WhatsApp discussions between 2019 and January 2021 of the ANC’s deployment committee were published following a Constitutional Court ruling.

According to the ruling party, there are no records of any documentation or social media activity related to the deployment committee from January 2013 to May 2018, with the majority of the names being redacted.

However, there were several notable examples of entities and positions discussed over WhatsApp, including:

  • Prasa Board;
  • Auditor General;
  • CEO of SA Weather Service;
  • Board of Media Development and Diversity Agency;
  • Board of Amatobe Water;
  • Board of Cross Border Road Agency;
  • CEO of SA National Biodiversity Institute;
  • Director General of Home Affairs;
  • Central Energy Fund;
  • Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA);
  • Independent Police Investigative Directorate (IPID);
  • Board of the National Youth Development Agency.

Selection process

The selection process seemed to be at the discretion of the committee members, who received messages to urge “comrades” to apply and put forward names.

Once candidates were recommended, a list was composed for the committee, the ANC’s secretary-general, the responsible minister of the hiring department and, at times, Parliament’s approval.

However, the Zondo Commission in State Capture stated that the ultimate power may have laid within the committee.

The commission said that “the fact that Ministers seek to convince the Committee, and go through such lengths to do so, implies however that the true and ultimate decision-making power lies with the Committee itself… [which] illustrates a situation where the minister makes a recommendation to the Committee, who has the final say in approving or rejecting a candidate.”

Some WhatsApp screenshots indicate that some of the recommendations were influenced by loyalty and service to the party, as well as urging ‘comrades’ to apply:

The documents also reveal that there was apparent anger when the committee’s recommended candidates were not selected.

One of the WhatsApp messages shows that a committee member expressed frustration when their preferred candidate was not appointed to the board of Prasa.

The sender (whose name is redacted) assured that the mistake would be fixed in the next board selection and that there would be better coordination going forward.

The ANC has fiercely stood by its policy of cadre deployment, saying that it “cannot be faulted in principle” and is common practice around the world.

On Wednesday (21 February), the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria dismissed the DA’s attempt to declare the ANC’s policy of cadre deployment unconstitutional.

The ruling party stood by the testimony of its president, Cyril Ramaphosa, at the Zondo Commission, who said that “we would concede that there are weaknesses in its practical implementation that make the case for greater clarity, both within political parties and the state,” and said that it is implementing reforms to better its policy.

Read: Court dismisses DA’s bid to declare cadre deployment unconstitutional

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter