2013: The year of implementation for the vision of the NDP

This brief examines the current state of implementation regarding the NDP.


The National Development Plan (NDP) presents a long-term ideal for South Africa  and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play for this to be achieved.

A respectable standard of living for all citizens is the main aim of the NDP. Eradicating poverty and the diminution of inequality are the avenues through which this aim will be achieved. [1]

The NDP has been approved and adopted by government and has received both impressive approval and strong opposition from the broader society. Near the end of June 2013, the ANC reaffirmed that the NDP is central to state policy.

The  NDP needs to be viewed from an implementation perspective rather than a map of the way forward.. If this is done, a better perspective as to whether it will work can be obtained.

According to both Ministers in the Presidency, Trevor Manuel and Collins Chabane, the NDP and its proposals will need to be implemented in the right order over the next 17 years. This process will take place in three broad phrases. [2]

Critical actions to be taken:

In 2013

  • Implement programmes that do not require additional resources and long lead times
  • Identify critical first steps to unlock implementation
  • Preparation of the 2014-19 Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) as the first five-year building block of the NDP
  • Focus on areas where implementation of existing policies needs to improve
  • Focused dialogues to overcome obstacles to implementation.

For 2014-2019

  • This planning cycle should be viewed as the first in a series of five-year planning cycles that will advance the goals of the NDP. The equivalent planning cycle at local government level will be equally important.

For 2019-2024 and 2024-2029

  • This phase of the NDP will be used to initiate the remaining activities. It will build on previous cycles and be informed by the review of performance. [2]

Assimilating actions into state plans

Government departments and entities need to invest in the required proposals within the NDP to realise its goals.

Government claims to have begun the process of aligning department long-term plans and policies with the NDP. However, each government programme has to be backed by detailed implementation plans which clearly set out choices made and actions that need to be undertaken and their sequencing.

Key steps to facilitate this integration include:

• The Presidency is leading the formulation of the 2014 – 2019 MTSF in consultation with departments.
• The Presidency and National Treasury will work with departments to clarify roles and responsibilities, ensure that plans and budgets are aligned, and develop clear performance indicators for each programme.
• Departmental strategic plans, annual performance plans and programme plans will need to be evaluated by the Presidency to determine alignment with the NDP prior to submission to Parliament.
• Monitoring and evaluation will be used to identify obstacles to implementation, to facilitate reflection on what works, and to continuously improve implementation.  [2]

Actions aligned with the NDP:


Development of the 2014-2019 MTSF is underway with the aim of having it ready for approval by Cabinet as soon as possible after the 2014 elections. This will enable the new administration to focus on implementation as soon as possible after up taking office.

The MTSF must be precise and clear in identifying indicators and targets to be achieved in the 2014 – 2019 period. The MTSF will contain the following for each of the outcomes:
• key targets from the NDP and from other plans, such as the New Growth Path, National Infrastructure Plan, and Industrial Policy Action Plan;
• current baseline for each target and the MTSF (2014 - 2019) target based on consideration of a trajectory to 2030 and
• key outputs and actions to achieve the target and department(s) responsible. [2]


According to President Zuma, being a BRICS member "fits in well with our NDP objectives of raising employment through faster economic growth, improving the quality of education, skills development and innovation, as well as building the capacity of the state to play a developmental, transformative role". [3]

Actions not aligned with the NDP:

Business Licensing Bill

The NDP identifies that small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) have the potential for greater job creation as compared to large corporations. This is important in tackling unemployment for South Africa’s future. However, with the Business Licensing Bill, which is currently being redrafted due to public outcry, the number of SMEs would have decreased. This is due to increased bureaucratic hurdles and consequently decreased potential job creation. If it were passed the NDP’s aim that 90% of jobs would be provided by small businesses by 2030 would not come to fruition.

Parliamentary Involvement

In June 2013, ANC MPs on Parliament’s labour committee backpedalled on proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act. This expelled measures that would have made it easier for businesses to hire, which is job creation as stipulated in the NDP, despite these already having been through extended negotiations and winning approval from Cabinet. Following that, Cabinet nonchalantly declared that the entire section of the NDP devoted to foreign policy was no longer considered acceptable and would be rewritten. [4]

Leadership and accountability

For implementation to be successful there is a need for effective political leadership. The President and Deputy President have to be the lead champions of the NDP within Cabinet and throughout the country. President Zuma has done this.

Premiers and Mayors will need to be visible and active champions of the NDP, with their offices being the catalytic agencies to drive implementation at provincial and municipal levels.

Cabinet has to have the responsibility for making the necessary prioritisations, sustaining momentum and ensuring that public confidence in the NDP remains high.

Cabinet has to be responsible for overseeing implementation and facilitating the resolution of coordination challenges. Where there are blockages, the Presidency will mediate discussions between the different parties responsible for implementation in order to find a practical way of removing the blockage. [2]

Correct Incentives

For implementation to be effective there is a need to be a constant aspiration for improvement. Without this aspiration no additional effort will be exerted. Within the public service, there are few penalties for public servants who do not perform, and occasionally the incentives can encourage people to do things that are inimical to the public good.

In the private sector businesses that are failing to invest in growing their businesses or recruiting and training young talent are not incentivised to do so. With the correct incentives such as those provided by the NDP should help to address some of these problems.

Concluding Remarks

The steps the NDP identifies what is necessary to improve the capacity of the state will be important, as the state (at national, provincial and local levels) needs to be proactively involved in identifying and overcoming obstacles to implementation. If the NDP is central to state policy as the government claims it is the proposals within the NDP has to be followed. Minister Trevor Manuel has stated the NDP was never meant to be a "perfect document" but the country could not afford to wait for the "perfect moment" to implement the initiative — therefore it had to start now. [5] The NDP may not be a perfect document but it does contain the foundation of building the future that country would enjoy.


(1) http://www.npconline.co.za
(2) Implementation of the National Development Plan - Post-SoNA media briefing by Ministers Trevor Manuel and Collins Chabane on 19 Feb 2013
(3) http://www.southafrica.info/global/brics/ndp-250313.htm#.UcwiG-YaK00#ixzz2XPomnex2
(4) http://www.bdlive.co.za/opinion/editorials/2013/06/14/editorial-manuel-asks-the-right-questions
(5) http://www.bdlive.co.za/economy/2013/06/24/manuel-fends-off-criticism-of-imperfect-ndp-policy

Eythan Morris – eythan@hsf.org.za 
Helen Suzman Foundation