/ 16 November 2009

Mantashe: Debate over planning commission settled

The debate in the ruling alliance over the National Planning Commission has been settled, ANC secretary general Gwede Mantashe said on Sunday.

‘In particular, we agreed that there is a need for the NPC located in the Presidency, which will be chaired by the Minister in the Presidency for the NPC and whose main responsibility will be to
ensure an integrated strategic planning across government,” Mantashe said, addressing a media briefing after a three-day alliance summit with the South Africa Communist Party, the Congress of South African Trade Unions and the South African National Civics Organisation.

‘That debate is settled now,” he said, flanked by Cosatu president, Sdumo Dlamini and SACP general secretary, Blade Nzimande.

Cosatu was vocal in its criticism of the Minister in the Presidency Trevor Manuel’s Green Paper on National Planning, saying it vested too much power in the former finance minister’s hands.

An alliance discussion document addressed issues raised by Cosatu but the union federation wanted the commission to be headed by the president. The ANC reiterated its support for Manuel to chair the commission after its national executive committee meeting — and the union has accepted this.

‘The broad thrust of that latest document is acceptable to us and that there are issues that still remain, to be nuanced and worked on, but that excludes the issue of chairing which we have settled on,” said Dlamini.

‘Our appeal is that people don’t raise this matter anymore, it’s not an issue.”

An alliance task team on macroeconomic policy would ”remain seized with reviewing and broadening the mandate of the Reserve Bank”.

Mantashe described the talks as ‘difficult, complex and long”, saying there was no ‘soft, soft approach” on the issues under discussion. He added that the talks were one of ‘the most important summits” since the 1990’s.

‘We come out of this summit more stronger because a robust engagement is pulling parties together. I don’t think you are going to see more public disagreements, [but] you’re going to see more robust debates in public because we don’t want to suppress that,” he said.

While the issue of Eskom’s management woes did not emerge at the gathering, Mantashe said the parastatal’s 45% price-hike application was a cause for concern.

‘We are definitely uncomfortable with the 45% times
three … we are looking at all various options … we are looking at them [and] we want to come up with a proposal by the end of the month,” he said.

The summit reaffirmed education as a key priority. A mass campaign for basic education would include the ‘enforcement of ‘non-negotiables’” agreed to at the previous alliance education summit. – Sapa