The election of Cyril Ramaphosa, the deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission, to the ANC’s second most powerful position has given the National Development Plan (NDP) much-needed impetus, but cabinet ministers played down any contradictions it may have with the New Growth Path (NGP), which already has the backing of ANC structures.
Ramaphosa notched up 3 018 votes in the race for deputy to President Jacob Zuma, who got 2 983 votes against Kgalema Motlanthe, signalling that the more conservative and pro-business NDP will receive a solid thumbs-up by the 4 000 delegates to the Mangaung ANC conference.
Before the conference started, Ramaphosa himself noted that the plan needed to get the conference nod, although the blueprint, driven by National Planning Minister Trevor Manuel, had already been given the green light by Parliament and the cabinet.
In his opening speech, Zuma referred to the plan as representing a confluence of ideas that extended beyond ANC supporters alone, and he did not wish to entertain debate about alternative plans.
During a Progressive Business Forum breakfast yesterday, Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel said he did not view the NDP and the NGP, driven by his department, as being contradictory. Some minor details might clash during the implementation process, he said, but these were not significant.
Deputy Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene expressed similar sentiments on Monday at the conference.
The NDP is essentially a development blueprint. It warns that urgent steps are needed to grow the economy, drastically raise employment levels, massively improve education standards, upgrade infrastructure, curb corruption and improve health services.
The NGP, first launched in 2010, has seven priority areas, including job creation, infrastructure development, agriculture, mining, manufacturing, the green economy and tourism. It places emphasis on the state creating the platform for economic development.
Pressed on whether the conference would end critical policy uncertainty in the economic arena, Patel said: “I believe that business will get that certainty.”
However, he said that in a democracy, public policy was open to public debate.
“It is not an issue for smoke-filled rooms… it is a societal matter… of course it is sometimes noisy and on occasion it is messy.”
Confronted by the charge that the NGP – which sees a significant role for the government and its state-owned entities in creating jobs – was “not consistent with the NDP”, Patel said: “The NGP and the NDP fit well together [and this is] not by accident.” .
“The starting points are the same,” he argued. Both documents sought fast economic expansion and job-rich growth.
Asked by First National Bank chief economist Sizwe Nxedlana why there appeared to be a “disconnect” between policies on paper “and accountability on the ground” – such as the non-delivery of school textbooks – Patel said he agreed that there was often a lot of talk about policies, but little action.
Business Unity SA (Busa) welcomed the results of the vote for the ANC’s new top six leadership.
It particularly drew attention to the need for the implementation of the NDP.
Busa chief executive Nomaxabiso Majokweni said the new top six were coming on board “at a time when the country is faced with serious and critical challenges”.
They included declining confidence among investors, high and escalating levels of corruption, socio-economic challenges such as increasing levels of inequality, joblessness and poverty.
Patel dismissed concerns that foreign direct investment, for example, was dropping. One could not look at an unusually good year, such as when the US-based Walmart bought Massmart, and then compare this with a year when there was reduced foreign investment.
Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Ramaphosa’s election as ANC deputy president had spurred a call by Cosatu for him to step down as chairman of MTN and Bidvest.
Ramaphosa also sits on the boards of SABMiller, Standard Bank and Lonmin.
Ramaphosa declined to comment, saying he would do so later.