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Zuma stands firm on implementing development plan

Verashni Pillay and Matuma Letsoalo

President Jacob Zuma has dug in his heels, telling guests at the ANC's gala dinner the National Development Plan would move ahead despite criticisms.

President Jacob Zuma arrives for the the ANC's gala dinner on Friday night. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

President Jacob Zuma said on Friday that his administration would implement the National Development Plan (NDP) despite criticism from the ANC’s alliance partner, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu).

Speaking at the ANC gala dinner in Nelspruit, Zuma listed several achievements made by his administration since the beginning of his presidency in 2009. Among these were improved matric results, the implementation of the National Health Insurance and the drafting of the NDP.

He said while he was aware that not everyone was happy with the development plan, the wishes of the majority – which supported the NDP – must be respected.

“It is democracy. Others will differ. But democracy says respect the wishes of the majority. If you are saying no to NDP, you are saying something about your understanding of democracy. We [South Africans] must be brave to say 'I agree with the nation [on the NDP]'. If you say no, then you don’t agree with democracy,” said Zuma. He explained that not everyone had agreed with the Freedom Charter either but the majority did.

“The NDP is ours. We worked on the agreements by the people of South Africa. What a success," he said. He hinted there would be no major changes on economic policies when the party launched its election manifesto on Saturday. Zuma said the ANC would continue its approach of an inclusive economy.

Cosatu's largest affiliate, the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, has repeatedly criticised the NDP, saying it was similar to the Growth, Employment and Redistribution Strategy introduced during former president Thabo Mbeki's presidency in 1996. 

The union recently resolved at its special congress not to campaign for the ANC withdrew its financial support for the party.

Zuma said the ANC would dedicate its 2014 to its former president Nelson Mandela, who died in December.

All praises
Zuma praised Basic Education Minister Angie Motshekga for her hard work in improving matric results which had increased by about 16% since she was appointed minister in 2009.

“There were calls [in the past few years] to sack the minister. I stood up and said she knows her job. Indeed she produced results. We [South Africans] need to support her,” said Zuma.

He repeated his call to business to support the ANC financially as doing so would be a wise investment.

“Business people – you have a duty to support your organisation. If you support the ANC it would be a wise investment. I know some people get jealous when I say this.  We are confident about our policies. It is your choice to support the ANC or some parties in corners.”

Prominent ANC politicians who attended the gala dinner included Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, former ANC treasurer Mathews Phosa, Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan and national executive committee member Bheki Cele.

In the spotlight
Busloads of senior ANC leaders, including some ministers, were mobbed by journalists when the began arriving. Motshekga shied away from the cameras but received her share of the spotlight later in the evening when Zuma sang her praises in his speech. 

Trade and Industry Minister Rob Davies told the Mail & Guardian ahead of the manifesto unveiling that the ANC was in a strong planning position as far as jobs and the economy went. "No other party can offer what we have," he said. Science and Technology Minister Derek Hanekom said the good thing about the ANC's manifesto was that the targets and plans were based on already achieved outcomes and, as a result, were within reach. "It's realistic," he explained. 

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan said the party had a "good story to tell" as their 2014 election phrase goes. He spoke about the crackdown on corruption too, saying the party was rooting out wasteful expenditure and malfeasance. 

Business people shelled out R25 000 per chair at the dinner, up to R250 000 for a table of 10, one business person told the M&G. Business people spotted at the dinner included party loyal and mining billionaire Patrice Motsepe, IT tycoon Robert Gumede and Iqbal Sharma who is linked to the Gupta family.

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