BUY-IN from President Jacob Zuma tipped the balance of forces in favour of the ANC formally adopting the National Development Plan at its national conference. It will inform government planning and efforts to unite South Africans more broadly behind efforts to grow the economy and alleviate poverty and inequality.
Adopted by the cabinet in September, the plan was well received by business and opposition parties and, while Cosatu was critical of some elements, it did not reject it.
But sources close to the process said that Zuma’s support was critical, particularly as he had set the ball rolling by appointing the National Planning Commission.
Endorsement at Mangaung indicates that implementation will get under way in earnest.
The plan will be a big focus at the cabinet lekgotla in late January that sets government’s programme of action for the year.
There is a strong possibility that newly elected ANC deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, will drive it, along with Planning Minister Trevor Manuel.
Ramaphosa was deputy chairman of the National Planning Commission under Manuel.
ANC economic transformation committee head Enoch Godongwana said yesterday that the plan was given “a special place” at the conference and that each of the 15 commissions considering policy questions had to reflect on it.
Confirming delegates’ endorsement of the plan, Godongwana said it was a “dynamic document that articulates a vision broadly in line with our objective to create a national democratic society”.
He said the ANC would “continue to engage with the plan” but would take the lead in mobilising South Africans to rally behind the common vision it offered of society in 2030. It is the first long-term plan for the country and the product of intense work by a group of experts under Manuel’s leadership.
Godongwana said the plan provided a “national vision over a long-term horizon” and that the National Growth Path, which focuses on job creation, and industrial policy (IPAP), aimed at growing the economy, would be used as “policy interventions”.
Zuma in his political report at the start of the ANC’s five-day conference this week, stressed the need to address complex challenges faced by South Africa in a coherent fashion – and to provide policy certainty craved by investors.
Noting that the road to overcoming unemployment, poverty and inequality would be “long and hard”, Zuma said: “Having a long-term planning blueprint creates certainty about where we are going and how we intend to go there.”
The plan would ensure “coherent programme and strategic discipline within the state and hopefully eliminate silos”, he said, referring to the tendencies of departments to work in isolation from one another.
Given the turbulence and uncertainties thrown up by the global economic crisis it was “easy to lose sight of our vision and strategic priorities, in favour of short-term solutions”, Zuma said. “Having a national strategic vision as a country helps us stay on track.”
Zuma told delegates the plan was the creation of South Africans and was not the product of either the government or the ruling party. But the ANC had to “hold it in both hands”.
“Anything we do must be part of the plan,” he said.
Acting head of the National Planning Commission’s secretariat, Khulekani Mathe, said department directors-general and the cabinet had been kept informed since the early stages of work on the plan.
Mathe said that had enabled departments to start implementing the plan in programmes.