President Jacob Zuma during a media briefing ahead of the 5th BRICS Summit at the Sefako M Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria. South Africa. 25/03/2013

President Jacob Zuma, looking to reassure investors during this week’s Brics summit in Durban, has lambasted those who criticised the National Development Plan (NDP), saying it offered an important blueprint to take South Africa’s economy forward and tackle poverty, unemployment and inequality.

He said the NDP offered what investors craved, and that was “policy certainty”.

Speaking at a presidential banquet organised by the ANC Progressive Business Forum on the eve of the Brics summit, Zuma said the NDP marked one of many critical milestones in the past 19 years of post-apartheid South Africa.

Therefore, it was difficult to understand the critics who said the NDP was wrong for the country, he said, in reference to recent criticism from the labour allies of his ruling ANC.

He said that before its adoption last year, the NDP was presented for input around the country. That process provided an opportunity for anyone to engage, criticise and contribute to its make-up.

In that context, he said, “I don’t know where were these people who are saying it is a wrong document.”

The NDP was an important achievement, Zuma said, adding that the hard work that went into putting the plan together was visible to all who took a serious view.

It is the first time that he has taken issue with NDP critics, some of whom have been emboldened of late in the face of growing concern that the plan may be good on paper but tough to implement.

That Zuma has seen it necessary to launch a broadside at the plan’s critics suggests that the NDP might well be used as a bargaining chip by both sides in the run-up to next year’s general elections.

If the rhetoric from both fronts is anything to go by, the battle lines are already being drawn up. Last week the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) unleashed a barrage of criticism at the NDP, saying it was based on the opposition DA’s policies and neoliberalism, and should be rejected.

Numsa general secretary Irvin Jim said the NDP had no plan to support industrialisation and manufacturing.

But Zuma said if South Africa did things right, it could achieve one of the NDP’s key goals: 11 million jobs by 2030.

“South Africa’s economy is positively and correctly viewed as an environment full of opportunities,” he told an audience that included Cyril Ramaphosa, the ANC’s deputy president and vice-chairman of the National Planning Commission, and government ministers and business delegates from the Brics countries.

“Brics provides an opportunity for South Africa to promote its competitiveness.

“It is an opportunity to move further in our drive to promote economic growth and confront the challenge of poverty, inequality and unemployment that afflicts our country,” said Zuma.

He urged fresh investment in mining, saying the industry remained critical for economic growth and development in South Africa. page 18