All the National Development Plan (NDP) needed, it turns out, was more dancing girls. Also some graffiti and, most importantly, a “memorable” logo.
Until Sunday those elements were missing from the centrepiece of government policy, the NDP that promises to bring about a new age in 2030. As a result, the citizenry – especially the youth – may have mistakenly thought the NDP moribund. That, vowed Planning Minister Jeff Radebe this week, will change.
“Our government commits to creating an awareness about the NDP and all its programmes,” Radebe said on Sunday, speaking from a flickering video screen set up right behind the real-life Radebe in an ofttimes bizarre launch of an “NDP brand identity”.
“We shall do this by uniting all of government initiatives and its programme of action under one umbrella to be seen as effective and measurable,” said video Radebe, before urging the nation to “raise awareness” of the NDP “by mobilising the nation around the NDP identity”.
Radebe was not the only one with perceptions on his mind.
“This issue of the NDP gathering dust is mainly a perception that is held, and I think it is also essentially partially because of the absence of energetic communication,” said Buti Manamela, Radebe’s deputy.
Both were speaking in front of government logos interspersed with the slogan “Together we move South Africa forward”, the ANC 2014 election slogan that in turn owed much to a prior Standard Bank advertising campaign.
Neither made use of the teleprompter screens set up and then removed again 10 minutes before they arrived for the event. Occasionally, Radebe said, plans had to change in their detail.
The NDP is about a quarter of the way in, from its launch in 2012 to its expiration in 2030, when its goals of universal happiness for all South Africans are due to be met.
The wide-ranging plan has been controversial since before its launch, with ruling alliance partners trade union federation Cosatu and the South African Communist Party among its fiercest critics. It has drawn fire from those in the inner circle of government, occasionally even on the record; a year ago, the deputy public works minister, Jeremy Cronin, decried the “cringeworthy poetry” of the document.
The section that so got Cronin’s goat, “our leaders’ wisdom is ours, because we sense our wisdom in theirs …”, got a fresh airing at Sunday’s launch.
Does the NDP now have universal support? “Yes, a big yes,” said real-life Radebe to the question. The ANC has adopted it, government has adopted it, the ANC’s alliance partners are “in line” and all is well.
Cue the dancing girls.
In a “brand activation” of the NDP’s new look, a small group of diplomats and government staffers were treated to a poetry performance that dealt with butterflies rooted in mountains; 10 young girls dancing energetically to the Shakira 2010 Fifa World Cup theme song Waka Waka (This Time for Africa); six older people dancing slightly less energetically to the same song; and a karaoke trio with a song about a beautiful place called South Africa. All while a gas-masked graffiti artist wielded spray paint to add white and black highlights on a purple blob above humanoid figures of different colours holding hands on a canvas just off the stage.
The NDP is for everyone, Manamela had indicated earlier, before continuing a speech almost entirely about young people.
Other than the performers’ general approval of South Africa, it was not immediately clear how all this related to the NDP. However, the new NDP logo – “very modern, dynamic, yet bold and legible,” video Radebe had explained earlier – was displayed legibly on the T-shirts and caps worn by a production troupe that put on a short edu-play about the NDP, only occasionally interrupted by the distinctive sound of a spray paint can being shaken vigorously.
The NDP, the edu-performers proclaimed after some consideration, “can make us achieve economic freedom in our lifetime!”.
Radebe did not flinch visibly at this broadcast, from a stage he had arranged, of a slogan the Economic Freedom Fighters appropriated from the ANC Youth League.
The National Development Plan (NDP) provides a sort of framework on which more specific government plans can be constructed, so measuring progress along the path it charts can be tricky. But scattered among its analyses of specific sectors and visions of the future are enough deadlines comprehensively missed and policies not adopted to make for a turn to the cynical.
“Eradicate infrastructure backlogs and ensure that all schools meet the minimum standards by 2016.”
As of June, the department of basic education reported that there were 18 106 schools in South Africa with no library whatsoever. There were also 569 with no electricity supply.
On the police:
“As soon as possible, all officers should undergo a competency assessment and be rated accordingly … Officers who do not meet the standard should not be promoted or appointed to a higher level.”
Current South African Police Service plans to do not include competency evaluations for anyone other than new graduates and members of the public who apply for firearms licences.
To meet a 2030 target of 11-million new jobs, chapter three of the NDP says, the unemployment rate must by 2015 decline to 20%.
In the second quarter of 2016, Statistics SA reported a 26.6% unemployment rate – up significantly from the levels at which the rate hovered when the NDP was written.
Within five years, the National Planning Commission said in 2011, technology milestones should include plans to allocate the new spectrum that will become available with the switch to digital broadcasting.
South Africa was due to switch off analogue television broadcasts, and so free up spectrum for internet provision, by late 2011. All deadlines since then have been missed. When the Independent Communications Authority published its plan in July to allocate new spectrum by auction, the minister of communications turned to the courts to stop the process.
On nuclear power generation:
“All possible alternatives need to be explored, including the use of shale gas …”
In March, the government announced that shale gas exploration would start in 2017. Meanwhile, Cabinet signed off on buying a new fleet of nuclear power stations and the paperwork around that process is well under way.