/ 11 November 2011

Implement the plans

The National Planning Commission (NPC), Trevor Manuel’s semi-detached department of good sense in the presidency, was preparing for the launch of its long-term programme for South Africa’s future as the Mail & Guardian went to press.

The NPC’s mandate from President Jacob Zuma is to develop a vision for the country and a roadmap to get there. It was also asked to lead investigations into trends in policy and practice that may act as obstacles to progress.

The broad outlines of the plan are clear. For starters, it will stress the importance of strong leadership. Clearly, that is because it tacks directly into some of the heaviest political weather around. Take the need to depoliticise the public service, where too many appointments and policy calls are made at the behest of trade unions and political parties.

Zuma has already experienced intense push-back on the Municipal System Amendment Bill which seeks to prevent active party officials from occupying positions in local government. Or the suggestion that the private sector needs to be accorded a larger role, and that labour market reforms might remedy some of our growth and employment problems. Those are not the prescriptions of the ANC’s union allies, or even of some pretty important government departments.

The NPC has no power to bind the government. It can only make recommendations to the Cabinet. But Zuma did locate it in the presidency and it will look very silly if he doesn’t actively support its proposals. He could even opt to turn its recommendations into the policy platform his administration has lacked. We aren’t holding our breath. Despite the cashiering of Julius Malema the road to Mangaung is long. But the president seems to be enjoying the aura of leadership. It could happen. We hope it does.

Read the first half of the editorial “Secrecy Bill bounces back