Only the African National Congress (ANC) and the Pan African Congress's (PAC's) sole member voted in support of a committee report that deemed a bill by the Democratic Alliance (DA) that intended to end cadre deployment "undesirable".
On Tuesday, the National Assembly voted on the Portfolio Committee on Public Service and Administration's report on the Public Administration Laws General Amendment Bill, a private member's bill introduced by DA MP Leon Schreiber in 2021.
The bill aims to depoliticise the public service.
The committee's report recommended that the National Assembly not support the bill.
It cited litigation that the Department of Public Service and Administration is working on and that the department is "currently working on a plethora of policies to enforce merit-based appointments free from political interference... This includes the draft framework on the professionalisation of the public service and legislative reviews to be tabled in Parliament in due course".
The adoption of the report was put to a vote, with 201 ANC MPs and the PAC's Mzwanele Nyhontso voting in favour of its adoption, opposed to the DA, EFF, IFP, FF Plus, ACDP and AIC's 123 combined votes, thereby scuppering the bill. The UDM, ATM, GOOD, NFP, Cope and Al Jamah-ah were not present for the vote.
Introducing the report, chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public and Administration, ANC MP Teliswa Mgweba said: "Honourable members, all legislative and policy reforms in the public service are consistent with and complement the Public Administration Laws General Amendment Bill.
"Based on the existing legislative amendments in the public service, the committee resolved to recommend to this august House that the Public Administration Laws General Amendment Bill is undesirable as it complements the existing bills drafted by the Department of Public Service and Administration."
Mgweba said, "The bill is undesirable, and the ANC rejects this bill."
Schreiber said South Africans "know that the suffering they endure at the hands of a corrupt and incompetent state is due to one thing above all else: the virus of cadre deployment".
He held up the bill as a "cure for cadre deployment".
"The End Cadre Deployment Bill will make it a criminal offence to interfere in public appointment processes. It will prohibit politicians from working in the civil service," he said.
"It will make the Public Service Commission independent and mandate it to enforce merit-based appointments.
"And yet, the report proposed by the ANC majority on the Committee on Public Service and Administration regards this bill as – quote – ‘undesirable’.
"That’s right. The ANC in this committee openly admits that it does not desire a cure for the cadre deployment virus that is killing South Africa.”
EFF MP Rosina Komane said the committee and the National Assembly's behaviour was "nonsensical" and that "no acceptable reasons have been provided" for rejecting the bill.
"The message sent to the public is that this Parliament does not process private members' bills. We are in fact declaring that as Parliament, our primary job is [to] wait for the executive to introduce legislation, and we will follow their lead.
"It is the very same executive that has crippled the Public Service Commission, rendering it ineffective, and is now riddled with corruption and nepotism by senior officials," Komane said.
IFP MP Mkhuleko Hlengwa said the public service was in disarray and public resources were not used effectively and economically.
"The bill's proposals to mandate the PSC [Public Service Commission] to enforce merit-based appointments, which are divorced from political interference, stands essential to the sustainability of the functionality of our public service," he said.
He added that despite the Constitution stating that no person must be advantaged or disadvantaged based on their political affiliation, it has become "quite the norm" that appointments in the public service were influenced by, or directly linked to, a person’s political affiliation.
Hlengwa said the adoption and enforcement of the bill would depoliticise the public service.
ACDP MP Steve Swart said the Zondo Commission found that cadre deployment was unconstitutional and illegal.
"More tellingly, Judge Zondo confirmed a link between the cadre deployment committee and state capture, as stated in his report. Read the report!"
He said the bill would end cadre deployment.
"It's no wonder that the ANC is opposed to this bill, given their vested interest in maintaining cadre deployment."
Al Jamah-ah leader Ganief Hendricks, who often votes with the ANC and is critical of the DA, said it is a "disgrace" to declare the bill undesirable and suggested that the "groundbreaking clauses in Honourable Schreiber's bill should be cut and pasted in the so-called bills that the portfolio committee said is already before Parliament".
ANC MP Mirriam Kibi said: "As the ANC, our cadre deployment policy is a critical instrument to ensure that the organisation applies itself to the type of public servants and representatives that the ANC will support, where such parameters to do so exist."
"We should not vulgarise cadre deployment as if it is all illegal practice, but it is an instrument of a government, a governing party to wield its power within the parameters of the law."
In a statement released after the vote, Schreiber said "the ANC of [President] Cyril Ramaphosa [on Tuesday] finally abandoned any remaining pretence of opposing corruption".
"The outcome of the vote confirms beyond any doubt that the promises made, and lip service paid, by Ramaphosa to fighting corruption and state capture, were lies. In full view of the nation, Ramaphosa's party today voted alone to sustain cadre deployment corruption. This is despite the findings of the Zondo Commission that cadre deployment laid the foundation for state capture. It also stands in contradiction to the national framework for professionalising the public sector, which recommends that deployment practices ought to be ditched in favour of a merit-based recruitment and selection system," he said.
The DA has also asked the Constitutional Court to declare cadre deployment unconstitutional and unlawful. Arguments in this matter were heard in January, and the apex court's decision is still awaited.
The DA had also successfully applied to the High Court to order the ANC to release all its cadre deployment committee records since 1 January 2013, when Ramaphosa became the committee's chairperson.
The ANC unsuccessfully applied to appeal to the Supreme Court of Appeal, and earlier this month indicated that it would appeal to the Constitutional Court in a last-ditch bid to keep these records secret.