We beat conventional wisdom with a stick
19 September 2014 15:36 (South Africa)
Opinionista Ryland Fisher

Zuma: The man with a development plan

  • Ryland Fisher
The National Development Plan, which ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa insists is the brainchild of President Jacob Zuma, could, if government uses it correctly, potentially restore the confidence of the public, and not only ANC members, in the president. The plan comes after 18 years of democracy and South Africa can no longer afford failure.

At a cocktail function last Wednesday, the night before President Jacob Zuma was due to deliver his State of the Nation address, ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa jokingly referred to Planning Minister Trevor Manuel as Zuma’s BFF (best friend forever in SMS language). Ramaphosa said Manuel still had to sit with Zuma later that evening to work on his speech.

Obviously, and as was expected, the National Development Plan, produced by the National Planning Commission (with Manuel as the chairman and Ramaphosa as deputy chairman), took centre stage during Zuma’s speech.

Zuma had set the trend for the broad acceptance of the NDP at the ANC’s conference in Mangaung in December, when he endorsed the plan in his opening address and spent a considerable amount of time outlining why the plan was a good initiative and why the ANC had to support it.

It did not come as a surprise when the ANC endorsed the NDP and used it as the basis for discussion for all the commissions at its national conference.

This trend continued at the ANC’s 101st anniversary rally in Durban on 12 January and in other speeches Zuma has made over the past two months.

At the cocktail function on Wednesday Ramaphosa was at pains to explain that the NDP was Zuma’s idea. Zuma had insisted that a group of experts, some of them academic, sit down and analyse the problems faced by our country. After they had submitted a diagnostic report, he had asked them to come up with a report detailing how to deal with the problems.

One of the criticisms often raised against Zuma is that he has no idea how to deal with the problems South Africa faces. Yet the NDP, which has been acknowledged by most major political parties as holding the solutions to most of our problems, has come about because of Zuma.

Ironically, among the strongest critics of the NDP have been members of the SACP, the ANC’s alliance partner, but their criticism has also become muted after the ANC overwhelmingly endorsed the plan in Mangaung.

In Ramaphosa’s eyes, the NDP clearly shows Zuma’s visionary ability and makes a mockery of the claims that Zuma is not in charge.

Of course, one can also argue that the NDP is the only thing that Zuma has going for him at the moment and he needs it to deflect attention away from the many problems he has faced recently. The plan, if government uses it correctly, could potentially restore the confidence of the public, and not only ANC members, in the president.

There is no doubt that the plan will feature strongly in the ANC’s election plans for 2014, even though the party has insisted that it is not an ANC plan, but a national plan for all the people of South Africa.

Now that the NDP has been broadly accepted by almost all political parties and seemingly by many ordinary South Africans, the next step will be to come up with an action plan that will ensure that the plan reaches its goals by 2030.

Manuel, whose influence within the ANC appears not  to have waned despite standing down from the powerful National Executive Committee in December, has been adamant that the NDP will only work if it has the support of all South Africans.

In the foreword to the NDP, Manuel wrote: “The approach of the plan resolves around citizens being active in development, a capable and developmental state able to intervene to correct historical inequities, and strong leadership throughout society working together to solve our problems. The plan addresses the need to enhance the capabilities of our people so that they can live the lives that they desire; and develop the capabilities of the country so that we can grow faster, draw more people into work and raise living standards for all, but particularly the poor. This is a plan for South Africa, requiring action, change and sacrifice from all sectors of society.”

We have had just over 18 years as a democracy and now we have just under 18 years to realise the society outlined in the NDP, one in which inequalities would be reduced and poverty eliminated. It intends to see a different South Africa by 2030.

The next step, according to the plan, is for the commission to “mobilise society to support the plan, and explore a social compact to reduce poverty and inequality through investment and employment.”

The commission would also conduct “research on critical issues affecting long-term development”, advise “government and social partners on implementing the plan” and work with “relevant state agencies to report on the progress of objectives”.

The ANC and South Africans in general have never been slouches at making plans. It is when it comes to implementation that we have fallen short.

One hopes that we will now move beyond the speeches as far as the NDP is concerned. The plan has set itself tough targets, such as expanding public works programmes to one million participants by 2015 and two million by 2020.

Combined with the infrastructure roll-out plan, which will probably create the greatest number jobs in the next few decades, the NDP gives South Africa a real hope of succeeding as a nation.

Unlike the Reconstruction and Development (RDP) plan and the Growth Employment and Redistribution (Gear) plan, which were unfolded when South Africa was in its infancy as a democracy, the NDP comes after 18 years of democracy and cannot afford to fail.

But, in order for it to succeed, it will need the involvement of everyone in society: the government and business to take the lead in implementing and civil society to keep an eye on its implementation to make sure that we meet the stiff targets set in the plan. DM

  • Ryland Fisher
ryland fisher

Ryland Fisher has more than 30 years of experience in the media industry as an editor, journalist, columnist, author, senior manager and executive.
Among his media assignments were as Editor of the Cape Times and The New Age and as assistant editor at the Sunday Times.
Fisher is the author of Race (published 2007), a book dealing with some of the issues related to race and racism in post-apartheid South Africa. His first book, Making the Media Work for You (2002), provided insights into the media industry in South Africa.
He is executive chairperson of the Cape Town Festival, which he initiated while editor of the Cape Times in 1999 as part of the One City Many Cultures project. He also runs a consultancy focusing on media and social cohesion.

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