An interview with Minister Jeff Radebe

“South Africa has gone far in terms of implementing the National Development Plan (NDP), but we will only succeed if we stay the course,” says Jeff Radebe, Minister for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation in the Presidency and the Chairperson of the National Planning Commission (NPC).

“Our Vision 2030 can be realised but it is not only government that has that responsibility. We require leadership across society. We require partnerships with everybody because attaining Vision 2030 is everyone’s responsibility. We’ll do our bit as government to accelerate the creation of this necessary and conducive environment but all the sectors, all the stakeholders have to play their part,” Radebe said in his office at Tuynhuis in Cape Town.

He said that government remained committed to the NDP. “However, you will recall that the NDP was adopted in 2012 not only by government but by our public representatives in Parliament unanimously as our Vision 2030. Then in 2014 this administration translated the NDP into the first five-year programme which we called a medium-term strategy framework (MTSF) 2014 to 2019 with the specific focus of implementing this plan.

“Additionally, the government has designated 14 outcomes in the NDP and the MTSF that covers all the areas of the NDP from education, health, the economy, human settlements, social cohesion and nation building.

“Each of these 14 outcomes is coordinated by a minister who is being held accountable by the President. The President has signed performance agreements with each of the ministers to hold them accountable. This is besides the normal performance agreements that ministers sign with their DGs and heads of department.

“Every quarter there is a meeting with the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, where we give progress reports on how far we have come in implementing the NDP. The programme of action that arises from that assessment is posted on our website, which is freely available.

“One of the key institutions that the president established in 2009 was the NPC which was responsible for developing the NDP. Their term of office ended in 2015 and the President appointed the new commissioners in September 2015 with the specific focus of assisting government to accelerate the implementation of the NDP.

“The new NPC, which I chair, has had several meetings as to how best we will be able to do this work. We are focusing on a few areas, with the economy being number one. But we also are focusing on the issue of a capable state and leadership and the role of citizens in the implementation of the NDP –amongst others.

“These pillars indicate our seriousness. You’ll recall as well that last year with the global economic slowdown, the decline of economic growth in China and the decline in commodity prices, the nine-point plan was developed as a programme of action in 2015 with areas such as agriculture and automotive being accelerated.

“The other thing we did in our quest to implement the plan is through Operation Phakisa which is a methodology of doing things in a faster way.”

Radebe said he had no idea why there was a perception that government might not be committed to the NDP. “We rely on the media to communicate. For example, in all the recent budgets, ministers spoke about what they are doing to implement the NDP but nothing was reflected in the media.

“A few weeks ago, the NPC had a press conference in Johannesburg where the commissioners explained what we were doing. I just saw a few brief articles about it. Yet, there are many projects that are as a result of the implementation of the NDP. For instance, there is a collaboration between government, business and labour on the educational outcomes, which is chaired by Sizwe Nxasana.

“I think we need to interact more with the media which we are endeavouring to do but it is a two-way process.”

Radebe said that government had tried to create ties and forge partnerships with all sectors of society.“This includes business, organised labour and civil society. For an example, the President has established various Presidential Working Groups, including one with business. The President has regular meetings with business and labour as part of the efforts of ensuring that everybody owns this plan.”

Radebe believes that everything is on track to implement the NDP by 2030, despite the global economic situation. “The only major stumbling block is the global economic meltdown because South Africa is not an island. We are affected by this global slowdown. We’ve seen a slowdown in China, America and some of our other major trading partners.

“Because we are a mining economy, we are affected by the decline of commodity prices. We have to take that into consideration. In spite of that our economy has shown resilience. We are seeing a lot of investment into the economy especially on the energy side, on the renewable, electricity generation side where private sector investment is now at around about R92–billion in a space of four years.

“We are also seeing positive signs in the automotive sector through our incentive scheme by the Department of Trade and Industry. There is a Chinese company which is investing around R12–billion and we have also seen investments by BMW, Mercedes Benz and General Electric. These are indicators that we are forging ahead.”

Radebe said that the success of the NDP is already visible in sectors like education. “If you compare the tertiary education system from 1994 to 2016, it is like chalk and cheese. In 1999 the government was spending about R41-million in bursaries through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS). In 2015, we were at R9.2-billion. That’s a phenomenal growth in terms of student intake.

“Let’s look at our economy as a whole. In spite of a sluggish performance at the moment as a result of global factors, if you look at the period as a whole, between 1994 and now, our economy has actually grown more than 60% and created around 5.6 million jobs over this period.”

However Radebe admitted that this has not been enough and that job creation was one area where government has not succeeded. “The lack of job creation has a context. Since the crisis that started in America in 2008 and affected the whole world, our economy lost about one million jobs.

“Let’s not forget the legacy of apartheid. I know many people no longer want to talk about apartheid but unfortunately we still have to talk about it because its vestiges still linger on.

“In 2016 we commemorated 40 years of the Soweto student uprising. What has happened to that whole generation of youngsters who were 16 or 17 years old in 1976?

“Some never continued with their education. Others went into exile to join the liberation movements. We are talking about a whole generation of people who had no access to high-level skills. Some are still suffering from the effects of Bantu education since 1953 when Hendrick Verwoerd, the architect of apartheid, asked, ‘What was the point of teaching maths and science to a black child when he would not be able to use it?’

“There are sectors in the economy that are growing, such as the financial services sector, but what about the intake from the black community? There is a skills shortage, so we’re back to square one.

“The point I’m making is that 300 years of colonialism and 40 years of apartheid can never be eliminated in a mere 22 years, but the efforts of our government are there to see.

“We have expanded the Public Works Programme and even though those are not permanent jobs, they are still job opportunities and will help to alleviate the challenge of joblessness in the short-term.

“In the end government can focus on creating a conducive climate for job creation but 80% of our economy is in the private sector. We should also ask the private sector what they are doing in order to implement the NDP. I’m not saying they are not doing enough but more effort has to be made for
further investment by the private sector.”

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