Work to make SA greater

13 November 2011 - 02:27 By Sunday Times Editorial

Sunday Times Editorial: ON Friday the National Planning Commission, made up of some the brightest economic minds in the land, presented South Africa's first national development plan to President Jacob Zuma. The objective is to eradicate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030 so that more South Africans enjoy a better life and have a greater stake in society.

President Jacob Zuma. File photo.
President Jacob Zuma. File photo.

Nine challenges have been identified as barriers to growth, chief of which is unemployment. The plan proposes raising employment from the current 13 million to 24 million in the next two decades. By reducing unemployment, the state will tackle unacceptably high levels of poverty, which can hamper social cohesion and, says the commission, "prompt social instability, leading to a rise in populist politics and demands for short-term measures that lead to further tension and decline".

Strikingly, the plan states that any development initiative has to be driven by the people of South Africa, in their own communities. It calls on them to be active, rather than just passive recipients of government largesse.

As Planning Minister Trevor Manuel points out on the facing page, giving people houses is not enough; people must have the means to acquire those houses. It's a radical shift of paradigm. In effect, it says: empower people to have the financial means to acquire the service they want. No more free RDP houses and other free services. This is a profound call in a country where a sense of entitlement reigns supreme. This change of communal thinking is identified as one of the keys to making the plan work.

We propose another crucial ingredient, now that the president has to deliberate on the plan before the cabinet adopts it a few months down the line: political will. When deliberations take place, there is no room for political expediency or short-sightedness. Foundations for the plan's success must be laid now, in 2011, even if the fruits are realised long after the present incumbent of the Union Buildings is gone. The plan must not be linked to party political battles. It is, after all, for the greater good of the country, not one party. We must all roll up our sleeves and work to make South Africa greater.