NEXT Thursday, on President Nelson Mandela’s 100th day in office, he will take the rostrum in parliament and announce a series of “presidential projects”.
For the past few weeks, government departments involved in the ANC’s reconstruction and development programme have been forwarding proposals to cabinet committees for acceptance on this list of priority projects with the special presidential stamp. Water Affairs, for example, has three RDP projects it wants to get under way; Land Affairs has also asked for some funding for pilot projects.
But Mandela may be regretting that, at the opening of parliament in May, he fell for the temptation of a rhetorical flourish in which he promised to show tangible RDP progress within 100 days.
It is just too short a time for work on the scale demanded by the RDP. “We could spend the R2,5-billion in the RDP fund tomorrow,” said one official in Minister Jay Naidoo’s office this week. “That would be easy. But the proper planning and execution cycle for projects of the scale we are looking at is 18 months — before you lay the first bricks.”
The danger is that a determined Mandela rushes into high-profile projects which suffer because they have not been properly considered. An example was his announcement, also at the opening of parliament, that children under the age of six and pregnant mothers would receive free medical care. It was a positive gesture that was warmly welcomed — but nobody had looked at the details, such as whether clinics and hospitals were ready to cope with this.
In fact, mothers and children in many areas were already getting free attention from clinics; and they received it at hospitals when they were referred by a clinic. The effect of Mandela’s announcement was to send mothers and children off to hospitals, circumventing the primary health clinic services — at greater cost to the state health services.
“It was a good project, but with a bit more time and effort a lot of the problems might have been avoided,” said one health policy expert.
A more realistic expectation than Mandela’s desire to “implement various projects … within 100 days” would be for government departments to have used this time to set in place the policy, financial, legal and institutional framework for longer-term RDP projects.
One would expect 1994 to be the year in which the new government sorts out and redirects the bureaucracy towards clear and firm new policy directives, with a view to implementing properly researched projects in year two and three.
Has this happened?
In some of the more energetic departments, it has. White Papers — the government policy statements that will form the basis of departmental activities for the next few years — are about to descend on parliament like confetti at a wedding. Almost every single deparment is drafting one.
New legislation will flood parliament later this session, as every department has to ensure its legislation is in line with the new constitution and enables it to pursue its new RDP work.
But Naidoo’s office, the linchpin of the RDP, is likely to convert its White Paper into a Green Paper –a discussion document rather than a statement of policy — an indication that the process of planning, research and consulting is more difficult than anticipated.
And so far parliament has hardly enough legislation to keep itself busy. Naidoo’s department has set in place its RDP Fund, for which will come support for the first rush of high-profile projects that Mandela can brandish in parliament. Later this month, Naidoo is convening a crucial summit of the thousands of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which will be crucial partners in RDP work.
But every single minister has huge obstacles to overcome. They have to redirect bureaucracies from tasks they have done for decades in a set way and with set goals. For example, Water Affairs is a technically superior department, proud of formidable engineering feats such as giant dams and making the Vaal River flow backwards, but has never paid much attention to the 12-million people who have no access to clean water and the 21-million who have no adequate sanitation.
Land Affairs has to restucture to separate itself from agriculture and deal with a flood of over 2 000 applications for land restitution.
Many projects cannot get under way until the provinces are ready to take them on, and in some cases new local government structures are in place. But some of the provinces are far from ready, especially those which have to incorporate the former homeland structures. The Northern Transvaal has to integrate four different bureaucracies and four different sets of administrative structures. The kwaZulu/Natal legislature has not even met yet.
Local authorities are a much greater problem — it could take a year just for them to come into existence.
Housing Minister Joe Slovo was the only new cabinet member to move quickly to bring in his own director general, Billy Cobbett, and has shown marked impatience in getting the crucial housing task under way, not just because it is crucial to the RDP but because it is viewed as the engine of economic regeneration and job creation.
But hopes of quick delivery are being dampened. Little can be done until the provincial administrations and new local governments are operative.
Slovo has to deal with financial institutions that are just not geared to serve the poor, convincing them to service loans as low as R10 000 (when R30 000 is their usual minimum) to households with incomes as low as R1 000 a month (when their current minimum is R2 000). There are also questions over the capacity of the building industry to deliver. But he has to face provincial premiers eager to show progress — and therefore tempted to find their own solutions rather than wait on central government policy decisions — and restless communities resorting to land occupation to assert their demands.
Cleverly, the Housing Department is anticipating this. The new legislation will speed up the process of identifying, expropriating, surveying and developing land. To deal with land invasions, it is also likely to accept a modified site and service scheme — with the added proviso that there will be ongoing state support and infrastructure to build houses in the longer term on these sites.
But expectations that the first bricks will be laid soon are unrealistic. The first 100 days have been spent putting in place the infrastructure needed for projects of a huge scale. This is no mean achievement for this short space of time.
At the other extreme is the Education Department, which has failed to take even the first few steps towards change. The department has been paralysed by a sick minister, a dispute over the choice of a director general, a recalcitrant bureaucracy and the fact that the minister had not been part of the ANC’s extensive policy planning and research in order to be ready for the task.
Mandela’s 100-day speech will no doubt give emphasis to projects that he can announce and use to show quick results. The real challenge, however, will be to identify the impediments to progress — incompetent ministers, unco-operative bureaucrats, lack of progress towards local-authority elections, integration of homeland bureaucracies — and show a determination to push them aside.
In his first three months of office, Mandela has risen to the political challenges of reconciliation and unity. Perhaps his greatest feat has been in swinging the entire society behind the RDP programme — even his sharpest critics and worse enemies are pledging allegiance to the ANC’s policy
Now, his 100-day challenge will be a managerial one: showing equal skill and determination dealing with the impediments to RDP progress.
NELSON MANDELA President
Application: The president gets full marks for hard work and dedication. Nobody can question the long hours he puts into his task, probably because it’s more pleasant than knocking around the three large houses he has access to in Pretoria, Cape Town and Johannesburg.
Progress: He will mark his 100 days in office with the announcement of a series of high-profile “presidential projects” to get the RDP moving.
General comments: Faces an early test: will he act against cabinet ministers failing in their tasks?
THABO MBEKI Deputy President
Application: Has always been praised for his diplomatic and political skill, rather than his hard work. Has a reputation for missing meetings.
Progress: Good, if judged by success in winning over the business community and the far-rightwing. Bad, if you’re waiting for him to turn up as a guest speaker.
Conduct: In influencing cabinet appointments, Mbeki showed a tough, ruthless streak, previously hidden.
General comments: Mbeki has adopted a quiet, behind-the-scenes style, less flamboyant than his chief rival, Cyril Ramaphosa. His battle to be first in class is not yet over, but he is doing a lot of homework
FW De Klerk Deputy President
Application: During his sojourn in the Greek Island, the deputy president applied himself fully to his tan — perhaps he thinks this will help him in the affirmative action stakes.
Progress: He was president, now he’s deputy; he lived in Libertas, now he’s had to settle for Overvaal; some would call that progress.
Conduct: A little petulant at times, such as when Thabo Mbeki was named “first deputy president”. But then demotion does that to people.
General comments: With one foot in the deputy presidency, and another in the Opposition, De Klerk hasn’t yet found his balance.
JAY NAIDOO Minister w/o Portfolio
Application: Naidoo gets things done, but has been slow in setting up a fully staffed department. The presidential projects will be the result of his co-ordination.
Progress: A White Paper is imminent, the RDP Fund is in place and a summit of non-governmental development partners is scheduled for later this month. But his department is playing down expectations of short-term delivery.
Conduct: His department has taken to not answering media calls, then whingeing when their side of the story is not in print.
General comments: Naidoo has to deliver quickly, without risking over-hasty spending — a tough task.
JOE SLOVO Housing
Application: Excellent. Slovo was the one minister who moved quickly to put his own man in as director general and to show that he is determined to move as fast as possible.
Progress: Houses are not built in a day, but the department has moved to set up the legal, financial and policy structures to get things moving. A White Paper and new legislation are imminent. Negotiations with banking institutions to facilitate finance for poorer families are progressing.
Conduct: The sharpest wit in the cabinet.
General comments: So far, Slovo is developing a reputation for building almost as strong as his earlier reputation, as a military leader, for destroying.
SIBUSISO BHENGU Education
Application: A major problem, partly because of ill-health.
Progress: Little that is apparent, except a messy fight to block out educational expert John Samuels from the director generalship. A White Paper being drafted is expected to do little more than confirm ANC educational policy.
Conduct: None at all, drawing criticism for employing cronies rather than the many skilled leaders in the sector.
General comments: Education is crisis area number one; not only is the minister not out of the starting blocks, but he doesn’t seem to know where to find them.
NKOSAZANA DLAMINI-ZUMA Health
Application: Good. As a doctor who has been involved in policy planning, Zuma is that rare phenomenon: a minister qualified for her posting.
Progress: Swift movement on three areas: free health care for children, restrictions on tobacco ads, and an Aids programme.
Conduct: Zuma was fortunate in moving into a department that had already accepted policies close to the ANC’s.
General comments: The test will be whether she has the political clout to win resources and support in the cabinet. The first signs were not good: she failed to win more than a token increase in cigarette taxes.
KADER ASMAL Water Affairs
Application: Excellent: a man who previously thought about water only when ordering a whisky has become a crusader for the recognition of its importance to development.
Progress: Swift. Legislation and a White Paper are in draft; he has started reforming the Water Boards, has started a new Community Water Programme, and formed a committee to rename dams.
Conduct: One of the more personable and candid ministers.
General comments: Asmal has refused to accept the notion that this department is a dumping ground for failed or semi-retired politicians.
DEREK HANEKOM Land Affairs
Application: Hanekom spends most weekends on rough country roads going out to meet communities.
Progress: The department expects to table a new Land Restitution Act within a few weeks, which would put in place the Land Commission and Land Claims Court . It has also made submissions to the RDP Fund for funding for some pilot land-reform projects.
Conduct: Hanekom traded in his departmental limousine for a luxury 4×4.
General comments: With 63 rural and more than 2 300 urban demands for land restitution, the department is flooded. But Hanekom has won the respect of his sector with clear direction and swift action.
DULLAH OMAR Justice
Progress: Good. The Judicial Services Commission is up and running, and the Constitutional Court will be soon. Omar has also come out in favour of giving attorneys rights of appearance in the supreme court and choosing judges from among attorneys and academics. He has ditched Latin for law students and shown a grim determination to get the Truth Commission going.
Conduct: Working hard to disprove what his harshest critics say: “Nobody is duller than Omar.”
General comments: If his role is to bring alive the Bill of Rights, he has got off to a reasonable start.
SYDNEY MUFAMADI Safety and Security
Application: Has been energetically running around the country putting out fires.
Progress: Limited, but then he has had to start from scratch in building a new civilian department. He also faces a logistical nightmare in integrating different forces and dealing with the police-killing epidemic.
Conduct: Pity him; he has to deal with Police Commissioner Johan van der Merwe, who is about as comfortable in the new South Africa as a Nazi in the Israeli government.
General comments: If progress is slow, it is probably because of the task rather than the man doing it. However, one notable failure is not getting rid of apartheid spokesman Craig Kotze.