The National Development Plan (NDP): The current state of play

This brief summarises the NDP’s main features and looks at the current state of play regarding levels of support for it.

Establishment of the NDP


The National Planning Commission (NPC) is a government initiative responsible for developing a long term vision and strategic plan for our country. The NPC’s mandate was given in the revised Green Paper which was released in February 2010 and was further elaborated by President Zuma, on 11 May 2010, at the inaugural meeting of the NPC.

The NPC was comprised of 25 part-time commissioners which the President appointed based on their skills and expertise. It was chaired by the Minister in the Presidency for National Planning, Trevor Manuel, with the ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa as the deputy chairperson. Other prominent individuals such as Bobby Godsell, Prof. Malegapuru Makgoba and Jerry Vilakazi are among the part time commissioners. There is also a fulltime secretariat of public servants to maintain the NPC.

After a concentrated period of consultation across the country the NPC completed the Draft NDP which was handed to the President and Deputy President on 11 November 2011. Following further consultation the revised NDP was given to the President on 15 August 2012 at a special joint sitting of Parliament. All political parties represented in Parliament articulated support for the NDP. Cabinet Lekgotla received the NDP on 6 September 2012 and acknowledged it as the strategic framework which would form the basis of future government planning.  

The South African Government and the African National Congress (ANC) adopted the NDP as the cornerstone and blueprint for a future economic and socio-economic development strategy for the country as of 2012/13 at Mangaung in December 2012.

However, the NDP is a highly controversial document within the tripartite alliance. The differences run deep, and can be traced back in part to the unresolved tensions between proponents of the RDP initiative and GEAR respectively, in the 1990s.

The NDP claims to integrate the Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Industrial Policy Action Plan (IPAP) and the Economic Development Ministry’s New Growth Path (NGP) into the new National Planning Framework.

Core issues in the NDP relate to South Africa’s economic growth and the ability of the growth initiative to broaden socio-economic transformation in the country by 2030. These are addressed principally in Chapters 3 and 7, dealing respectively with ‘Economy and Employment’ and ‘Positioning South Africa in the World’.


Goals and objectives


As a long-term strategic plan, the NDP serves four broad objectives:

  • Providing overarching goals for what we want to achieve by 2030.
  • Building consensus on the key obstacles to achieving these goals and what needs to be done to overcome those obstacles.
  • Providing a shared long-term strategic framework within which more detailed planning can take place in order to advance the long-term goals set out in the NDP.
  • Creating a basis for making choices about how best to use limited resources. [1]

The NDP itself is divided into 15 chapters that deal with different aspects related to the achievement of its goals:

  1. Policy making in a complex environment
  2. Demographic trends
  3. Economy and employment
  4. Economy infrastructure
  5. Environmental sustainability
  6. An integrated and inclusive rural economy
  7. Positioning South Africa in the world
  8. Transforming human settlement And the national space economy
  9. Improving education, training and innovation
  10. Promoting health
  11. Social Protection
  12. Building safer communities
  13. Building a capable and developmental state
  14. Fighting corruption
  15. Transforming society and uniting the country [1]

A respectable standard of living for all


A respectable standard of living for all citizens is the aim of this Plan. Eradicating poverty and the diminution of inequality are the avenues through which this aim is to be achieved. The central elements in a respectable standard of living identified in the Plan are:

  •     Housing, water, electricity and sanitation
  •     Safe and reliable public transport
  •     Quality education and skills development
  •     Safety and security
  •     Quality health care
  •     Social protection
  •     Employment
  •     Recreation and leisure
  •     Clean environment
  •     Adequate nutrition [1]

Support for NDP



  • President Zuma formally introduced the NDP in his state of the nation address (SoNA) in February 2013
  • In the reply to the SoNA debate, 21 February, it was announced that all government policies would be realigned to NDP.  This realignment of all policies to the NDP would be done by the July 2013 Cabinet Lekgotla, to prepare government’s 5 year medium term strategic framework (MTSF) for 2014-2019 as the mandate of the next ANC government.
  • Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan opened his budget vote speech with it so as to align it with Chapter 3 of the NDP which aims at inclusive growth.
  • Various ministers referred to the plan during their own department budget vote speeches in May. A number of cases were cited to illustrate that some parts of the plan were already being implemented and that "the process of disaggregating the NDP into the first of the five-year plans in the form of the Medium Term Strategic Framework" was under way.
  • In his reply to the debate on the Presidency's budget vote in Parliament, President Zuma came out strongly in support of the plan, following a number of media reports questioning its acceptance by some members of the ruling ANC and its allies, the SA Communist Party and Congress of SA Trade Unions.  [2]  

The Official Opposition


In November 2011 the DA welcomed the release of the NDP. After studying it the DA concluded that many of the key findings and proposed solutions were correct and could be endorsed. Notably it was believed that the NDP points to a “growing consensus amongst a growing number of people at the non-racial, moderate centre of politics.” [3]


Business and Markets

  • Business Leadership SA and Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), have been strongly pushing for the realignment of government  policies to the NDP, specifically mentioning the need to align IPAP and the NGP more closely with it as this will stimulate growth in the business sector
  • Black Business Council (BBC) spokesman and businessman, Sandile Zungu, has said while the NDP might not be a "perfect picture for everyone", it was a "credible start" to moving the country to higher levels of growth and development.
  • Reserve Bank governor Gill Marcus has weighed in on NDP debate, calling on all sectors in South Africa including government, business, and labour to engage in a constructive engagement with the plan and to refrain from attacks in the media. She said the fact that the NDP was "the only document" other than the Constitution "that has been adopted" by Parliament "gives it a lot of standing". Ms Marcus said while more discussions could be held on the NDP, the plan does provide a "mission" and "purpose" about how to develop the country. [4]

Opposition to NDP


While the NDP has been widely supported by most sectors, it faces significant criticism and opposition. Most notably the South African Communist Party (SACP) and some unions, including the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa) are saying the plan in its current form cannot be implemented. They argue that it is more focused on capitalist interests than on the working class and the poor. [5]

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) in its draft discussion document on aspects of the National Development Plan identified weakness in the NDP as including:

  • problems in interpreting the NDP
  • statistical and factual errors
  • dubious poverty and unemployment projections
  • a problematic job plan
  • its failure to pursue the NGP/IPAP vision of reindustrialising the economy
  • that it is premised on undermining worker rights, & a low wage strategy
  • a business as usual macroeconomic stance, and
  • its acceptance of the persistence of high levels of inequality  [6]

Concluding remarks


According to President Jacob Zuma, "The Plan was adopted by Cabinet [...] It enjoys the support of Parliament. It was also endorsed by the ruling party, the ANC, at its national conference in Mangaung in December. The NDP also enjoys the support other sectors of society. Very few policy documents have ever enjoyed such widespread support."

However, there is significant opposition to the NDP from within the tripartite alliance. In the short term, the run-up to the elections in 2014 strengthens the hands of its critics in the alliance, and provides them with powerful bargaining counters. President Zuma’s political pragmatism could yet persuade him to reconsider his position.






Eythan Morris –
Helen Suzman Foundation