A proposal to legislate the National Planning Commission is gaining traction at the ANC’s policy conference as delegates deliberate on how to legally compel business and labour to meet targets set out in the National Development Plan (NDP).
On Saturday the ANC’s head of policy, Jeff Radebe, outlined the proposal while announcing the updated achievements of the first phase of the NDP’s implementation, ending in 2019.
“We need to codify the National Planning Commission and a system of planning in South Africa so that we ensure it has a force of law, and [discuss] how it can be implemented,” Radebe told the Mail & Guardian at the ANC policy conference at Nasrec.
The discussion follows sharp criticism from the South African Communist Party (SACP), which criticised the NDP as a social pact that imposes no legal obligation on government or on business and labour to implement it.
Radebe said President Jacob Zuma had signed performance agreements with all the ministers responsible for the medium-term targets in the NDP, which include improving the birth mortality rate, matric pass rate and community healthcare service, lowering unemployment to 14% by 2020, creating 11 million jobs by 2030 and ensuring universal access to digital learning in all the country’s schools.
Despite overwhelming evidence that the government will not be able to achieve goals such as reducing unemployment, Radebe said the
ANC would not revise the targets. “We are discussing the targets, but our journey to 2030 goes ahead and we are committed to fulfilling those objectives. If there are obstacles in the way, our responsibility and duty is to find ways to mitigate negative factors that stand in the way of our march to 2030,” he said.
The minister said the NDP had been adopted by the ANC in 2012 at its Mangaung conference and also by Zuma’s Cabinet. In addition to this, it was adopted by the national Parliament, with the Democratic Alliance voting together with the ANC in support of the plan.
But it has been criticised most sharply from within the ANC-led tripartite alliance. Organisations such as metalworkers’ union Numsa, which described the plan as a liberal version of the government’s former Growth, Employment and Redistribution strategy, also accused it of being based on DA policy.
The South African Communist Party (SACP) and trade union federation Cosatu have both objected to the NDP. Cosatu met two months ago to prepare for its alliance political council with the ANC ahead of this week’s policy conference, where it planned to raise its concerns.
But the meeting was postponed and thus far has still not been rescheduled.
In its central executive committee meeting Cosatu said the NDP “seeks to effect cosmetic changes to colonialism of a special type, by consolidating and perfecting the mechanisms of the capitalist mode of production and imperialist domination”.
In an apparent attempt at soft-pedalling the disagreements that exist in the alliance over the NDP, Radebe said the SACP’s most senior leaders are in fact implementing the plan.
“Some of our alliance partners have some reservations, especially on the economic section of the NDP, [but] my perception is that they have not rejected the National Development Plan.
“I know that the GS [general secretary] of the SACP [Blade Nzimande] is a member of Cabinet, which is implementing the plan,” he told journalists at Nasrec.