2030 vision is blind
I felt for Trevor Manuel last Thursday. In the same week that he handed over the revised National Development Plan 2030 to the president in Cape Town, at the other end of the country a bloody massacre left bodies sprawled across a dusty stretch of veld in the North West mining settlement of Marikana.
It was a horrific reminder of one the most difficult challenges facing the development plan - enacting lofty ideals into a society trapped in despair.
There is nothing wrong with the plan in theory; but in practice there is everything wrong with its overly optimistic assumption that we can easily become the society it envisions.
The past few months have been very difficult as I again worked my way through rural South Africa.
In hospitals, I was alarmed by the tangible fear of safety for health workers and patients (imagine a patient being raped in her bed), the constant complaints of a lack of equipment and basic medicines, and the perennial shortage of staff.
I watched in horror as old people waited for hours for our politicians to arrive; no sense of urgency or respect. I witnessed again how pensioners wait in queues for days on end in a rural village. I talked in a classroom, and the teacher never showed up at all.
Manuel is right about one thing: this is not a money problem.
It is a problem of a broken society that simply does not take people seriously.
It would be very dangerous at this point to valorise the miners (10 people died at the hands of miners before the televised massacre), and especially their rival bosses, who in fighting and insulting each other on a Sunday television programme demonstrated how the Marikana massacre happened in the first place.
There is a spectacular lack of leadership, and the mining company appears to be a big part of the problem.
In other words, the kind of society and the kind of leadership we have must dramatically change its value system and its human commitments if the National Development Plan is to even stand a chance of implementation.
Let's take the plan's proposed measures for education: "Increase the quality of education so that all children have at least two years of preschool education and all children in Grade 3 can read and write".
You have to have a heart of stone not to agree with this goal.
But how is this going to happen in a society that can't take care of the 12million children within the existing school system?
How many ambitious politicians, dead and alive, have sworn that our children will become literate and numerate by a certain grade or date?
This is another such promise.
However, in a society which can't get textbooks to schools on time, or install teachers in schools on the first day of the school year, or prevent unions from destabilising the poorest of schools month-in and year-out, how exactly is this going to be achieved?
In a society where every education tender above R1-million is almost guaranteed to draw the attention of corrupt, incompetent and well-connected scoundrels, how is quality preschool education even possible?
We seem to forget that from the first day of the national school nutrition programme of the 1990s for younger children, there were people robbing this fund.
To achieve the noble goals of the National Development Plan, the authors need to drastically recalibrate and ask whether we have the kind of society in which such goals are possible. It is not enough to say we must all pull together in the same direction.
It is not enough to set noble goals for 2030 when many of those cheering the plan will be dead or retired. It is not enough to appeal to our values when the brutal reality is that we all do not share the same core values on, for example, the welfare of young children.
If Marikana teaches us anything it is this: our society is not ready for this kind of National Development Plan.