Minister Jeff Radebe: Public Lecture on “National Development Plan, Vision 2030 - Its Impact On The Development Of Good Governance”

Public Lecture on “National Development Plan, Vision 2030: Its Impact On The Development Of Good Governance” by Minister in The Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation and Chairperson of the National Planning Commission, Jeff Radebe

Programme Director
Vice Chancellor of Unisa Professor Makhanya
Fellow speakers,
Members of Unisa Council, Management and Staff of Unisa, Representatives of other Institutions of Higher Learning
Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Members of the National Planning Commission, Representatives of political parties,

Senior Government Officials, Distinguished Guests, Ladies and Gentlemen, and Fellow South Africans.

Thank you all for taking time out off your busy schedules to join us this morning. Thank you to the university leadership for the foresight to host this lecture in the month of September, for it was in this month three years ago that the Cabinet of South Africa debated and finally adopted the National Development Plan (NDP), after it had been endorsed by Parliament on the 15 of August 2012.

I accept with excitement and humility the honour to deliver this second annual lecture on the NDP, the first to be hosted by the University of South Africa (Unisa). The first lecture was delivered by the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa at Wits University in September 2013. I am hoping that the leadership of Unisa will be persuaded to partner with the National Planning Commission and make this NDP lecture an annual event hosted in the month of September.

Opportunities such as these provide us a platform to engage with the NDP at a much deeper level than ordinarily happens. Discussing the impact of the NDP on the development of good governance in South Africa allows us to engage with, what the National Planning Commission at the time thought would be, the necessary conditions for the Vision 2030 goals to be achieved.

Before proceeding, I want to initiate the discussion with a reminder that it was not so long ago when we lived in a country where access to opportunities depended on the colour of your skin, your gender and where you lived. In this country, a mere generation ago, men and women were sent to the gallows or served long sentences for holding political beliefs that were contrary to the ideology of the government of the day. It was a crime to hold political gatherings.

Newspapers were placed under severe restrictions or even banned for reporting about apartheid brutality against Black people, and for refusing to be the mouthpiece of the brutal apartheid system.

Men, women and young people died in prison under mysterious circumstances and the government was not held accountable. To this very day, many who lost their loved ones have not achieved closure because of the actions of a deceitful and corrupt government.

Of more devastating impact, public expenditure was allocated along racial lines. Black people received education designed to enslave them. Women were forced to raise families single-handedly while their husbands were in jail or working in mines as cheap labourers for extended periods.

I raise these issues as a reminder of the extreme case of bad governance we experienced as a country and which we defeated, thanks to the resilience of our people across racial lines. Even then, however, many of the ugly scars of apartheid’s unjust governance remain with us, and are a central concern of the NDP.

Let us also be reminded that bad governance is still much in evidence in countries where people are not allowed to freely express their political beliefs. There are countries where those in power were not chosen by the people. There are leaders who are holding onto power against the will of their people, and have manipulated the constitutions of their countries to extend their term of office. There are countries where being gay or lesbian is a crime. There are countries where leaders have wealth stashed in bank accounts held on foreign soils while children go to bed hungry. 

While we have succeeded in removing an oppressive regime, and we have established institutions to safeguard our democracy and good governance, this is not enough. We need to work hard to ensure that those institutions are not undermined, and our hard-won gains are not eroded over time.

Defeating apartheid was like climbing a mountain and reaching the top, and as Madiba said, only to find that there are several others to climb. In 1994, we reached the mountain top in our struggle for liberation and started a new phase of struggle. The new phase entailed taking measures to restore the dignity of our people by providing services they were previously denied. It entailed dismantling all the apartheid laws one by one, to give way to a democratic, non-sexist and non-racial legal framework. We embarked on creating a constitution that would represent the aspirations of the nation we want to be. 

Delivering the Annual Steve Biko Memorial Lecture at the University of Cape Town three years ago, Ben Okri, the Nigerian author said the following about the continuity of the struggle for change:

The unfortunate thing about history is that it gives us no rest, no holidays. There are no pauses; we go from struggle to struggle. The struggle to overcome and then the struggle to live, to grow, to realise the potential seeded in our bones. We go from tearing down the unacceptable to building the desirable without much of a break in the dance.

So too, our struggle continues. The fact that poverty continues to dehumanise our people, that public services are not of the same quality everywhere, and that opportunities are not equally distributed are clear signs that our struggle is not over. The faces of our young people on street corners in our townships with no prospect of work; the lands that are lying fallow in our rural villages; the soaring number of young people in our correctional facilities; the ravages caused by drugs in communities; and the poor outcomes of education, all serve to instruct us that our work is not done.

We, therefore, continue to strive to erase all remnants of our terrible past as we write a new story, a new narrative of a country that faced adversity and did not give in, a country and a people that had every reason to despair in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, but fought on to secure, for future generations, a truly united nation at peace with itself as envisaged in our Constitution, and as embodied in the timeless slogan of our movement, a nation that ensures: A Better Life for All.

The NDP provides us with the tools to tackle these next set of challenges, and the coordinates to navigate the complexities of addressing inequality, unemployment and poverty. The NDP, as comparable to development plans of other nations and the strategies of bilateral and multilateral institutions, places a great deal of emphasis on good governance as part of the non-physical infrastructure that must be developed to support socio-economic change.

The decisions about how to spend public resources, what to prioritise in the face of competing demands, the sequence in which to implement priorities is a function of governance. The decision on how much weight to give to international developments that impact on our development, and the type of relations to have with other nations is a function of governance. The communication of these decisions to our people is a function of governance. Governance can be done well or it can be done badly. Good governance is part of that infrastructure necessary to take us to our 2030 goals as outlined in Vision 2030.

But, what is good governance?

Governance as a concept has been around for hundreds of years. Broadly defined, it means the process by which decisions are made and implemented. In a 1992 publication called Governance and Development, the World Bank defined governance as the “manner in which power is exercised in the management of a country’s economic and social resources for development”. Good governance, in our context, is about a bit more: it is about improving on the current processes of decision-making and implementation to transform the lives of our people.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), defined governance as “the exercise of political, economic and administrative authority in the management of a country’s affairs at all levels”. The UNDP goes on to say that “governance comprises the complex mechanisms, processes and institutions through which citizens and groups articulate their interests, mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations”.

Other scholars expressed difficulty with the concept of governance. In a book called: Understanding Governance published in 1997, Professor Rhodes, of the University of Newcastle declared that “governance has too many meanings to be useful”.

Despite these conceptual difficulties, good governance has gained currency in development discourse in the past thirty years and has been accepted as the ideal that we must all strive towards. It has become synonymous with development and some have even ventured into the difficult terrain of suggesting that good governance causes development, 

If governance is the process of decision making, then good governance is about improving or changing the process of decision making and implementation of decisions. On the other hand, development in its simplest form is about changing for the better the conditions under which people live. It is about intervening to ensure that the burden of history does not continue to we weigh on future generations. It is about ensuring that being born of poor parents and in a poor area does not have to determine the life-opportunities of an individual.

Amartya Sen in his well-known book, Development as Freedom reminds us that development is not merely about changing physical and material conditions, important as this is; it is also about the intangibles such as freedom – the freedom to choose and lead the lives that people have reason to value. There is clearly a relationship between good governance and development, without needing to establish causality between them.

Donor agencies and good governance

More than many, aid agencies both multilateral (such as World Bank, UNDP) and bilateral (such as the UK, DFID) are among the first to embrace and promote the concept of good governance. Rather than define it, given its complexity, they focus on delineating its key components or characteristics.

According to the World Bank, for example, good governance has four broad dimensions:

The first dimension is public sector management – which entails ensuring that government manages all its resources effectively through appropriate accounting and reporting systems. Within this the Bank focussed on public expenditure management, civil service reform, and para-statal reform.

The second dimension is accountability – this includes holding public officials responsible for their actions through better accounting and auditing, decentralisation to ensure micro-level accountability to consumers and supporting the role of non-governmental organisations.

The third dimension is the legal framework for development – which requires ensuring that there is a set of rules known in advance, that rules are applied and enforced, that an independent judiciary exists to mediate and resolve conflicts, and that there is a clear framework for amending rules.

The fourth dimension is information and transparency – which entails the availability of information on economic efficiency, transparency to prevent corruption, and public availability of information for policy analysis and debate.

Ideological roots of good governance

Good governance, however, is not without controversy and has been viewed with some suspicion by those in the global South as a mechanism for imposing the values of Western countries on developing nations. This is due to the strong association of the concept with development aid conditionality.

For example, the World Bank and other donor agencies, frustrated by the poor record of aid programmes, attributed the failure to the ‘weakness, incompetence and corruption of recipient governments. Good governance was to be the new prescription to help rid the developing world of the “poor governance” scourge. On paper, the Bank tried to remain within its mandate as outlined in its articles of agreement, which prohibited it from politically interfering in countries it supported.  However in reality it did not.

I do not need to remind anyone that the Bank went on to promote, and even impose, policies that have had detrimental effects on many countries, not the least, in Africa, as this has been documented, even by the Bank itself.

There are similarities in how the major development agencies have defined good governance, with the same themes of rule of law, transparency, accountability, effective resource management, among others, featuring repeatedly and constituting a template for good governance that is “universally” accepted.

The concept also gained prominence in the 1990s as part of the triumphalism of Western capitalism following the collapse of communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe.

Good governance is therefore not a politically neutral concept. Some have characterised the version of good governance promoted by donor agencies in the 1980s and 1990s and that continues to some extent today as part of the ideological onslaught on the state by unfettered market fundamentalists. 

Many activists, scholars and governments from the global South end at simply providing a compelling critique of the good governance framework but that is not enough. As responsible leaders, we need to do more than that because our countries face problems of governments and institutions that fail to deliver services to their populace; governments that cannot manage resources effectively and in the interest of all citizens; unaccountable governments and state institutions; a growing distance between governments and their people; and in some instances, governments that are not democratically elected.

Despite its troubled ancestry, the good governance framework has much to offer in helping address these pressing challenges.   

The National Development Plan and the development of good governance

Given our history, good governance has been a central part of the reforms introduced by the democratic government in South Africa since 1994. Major policy documents have been consistent in embracing and engaging with the concept of good governance, from the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP), the Constitution, and the 1998 report of the Presidential Review Commission appointed by President Mandela. The NDP elaborates and refines South Africa’s approach to good governance and the concept permeates through the various chapters.

The following passage summarises succinctly the RDP vision of governance: Democratisation requires modernising the structures and functioning of government in pursuit of the objectives of efficient, effective, responsive, transparent and accountable government. We must develop the capacity of government for strategic intervention in social and economic development. We must increase the capacity of the public sector to deliver improved and extended public services to all the people of South Africa.


The Constitution sets out a legal framework, and establishes institutions to carry out the good governance vision outlined in the RDP. The Presidential Review Commission produced a report entitled: Developing a Culture of Good Governance, which identified the following elements of the new culture of good governance that South Africa should seek to develop in the public service:

  1. To protect and enhance representative and participatory democracy;
  2. To support civil society and its interaction with government;
  3. To promote economic and social development and the advancement and empowerment of disadvantaged people and communities;
  4. To shift power and authority from central government to provincial and local government, within a framework of national norms, standards and values;
  5. To locate responsibility for achieving efficient and effective delivery of services to the lowest possible level;
  6. To ensure that ethical and professional standards are developed and maintained throughout the public service and all other organs of state;
  7. To ensure that the functions and records of government are open to public view and appraisal;
  8. To secure accountable and transparent stewardship of public resources, so as to build the kind of society envisaged in the 1996 constitution;
  9. To reward achievement, acknowledge failure and give redress to grievances.

The NDP builds on these previous policy documents and encapsulates good governance in the following manner: It paints a picture of a country we want to live in by 2030; identifies the critical challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality that we need to address; and outlines the actions and measures we need to take in order to achieve our vision. It outlines the physical, human and institutional capabilities necessary to ensure socio-economic transformation; it highlights the importance of clarifying roles and responsibilities of different actors in government and society to ensure effective implementation.

In this sense the NDP is not the plan of government or the ruling party, but a plan for South Africa that is inclusive of all sections of society in which the state has a specific role relative to the roles of others.

This perspective is given clear expression in the six interlinked priorities which we often refer to as the pillars, namely:

  1. Uniting all South Africans around a common programme to achieve prosperity and equity;
  2. Promoting active citizenry to strengthen development, democracy and accountability;
  3. Bringing about faster economic growth, higher investment and greater labour absorption;
  4. Focusing on key capabilities of people and the state;
  5. Building a capable and developmental state; and
  6. Encouraging strong leadership throughout society to work together to solve problems.

In the Ten Year Review of democratic governance undertaken in 2003 it is clearly recognised that government is not the only actor capable of bringing about socio-economic transformation. The review concludes that “Government’s successes occur more often in areas where it has significant control and its lack of immediate success occurs more often in those areas where it may only have indirect influence”

Acknowledging this, the NDP emphasises the need for a new model of cooperation between the various sectors of society. It recognises that individuals have agency; they have the power to change their conditions; and that tapping into and channelling that agency can be a powerful tool to drive change in society.

In their book, Why Nations Fail, the economists Daron Acemoglu and James Robinson  argue that the reason some nations succeed and others fail is not due to factors such as climate, geography or culture, but the choice of institutions. They posit that countries that adopted inclusive institutions succeeded and those that chose extractive institutions - serving a small section of society - lagged behind or even failed. For citizens to participate and hold governments accountable, information and platforms for participation must be readily available. This is true of policy making structures at national government level as well as in school, hospital and local governance.

Inclusive institutions ensure that there is openness and transparency in how appointments are made for example in government posts, in the awarding of tenders, in regulatory decisions such as environmental approvals, and in how remuneration committees decide bonuses for executives in the private sectors. When decisions that affect a large number of people are dominated by one group at the expense of others the rest of society lose out. Policy capture can take place between sectors and within sectors

In calling for “building a capable and developmental state”, the NDP draws on the experience of the East Asian developmental states that achieved superior development outcomes. The establishment of the National Planning Commission and more recently the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation was largely influenced by insights gleaned from the institutional architecture of many of the archetype developmental states.

Overview of how different chapters of the NDP relate to good governance

Allow me to highlight a few proposals in various chapters of the NDP which embody good governance concerns, or aspects thereof.

The strategy for economic governance outlined in the NDP is embodied in key actions identified, such as boosting our educational levels; promoting industries that are labour absorbing such as mining, agriculture, construction, hospitality and small businesses; growing the more advanced sectors of the economy such as manufacturing, parts of financial services, telecommunications and businesses services; and the effective provision of a broader social wage to enable the poorest of our people to have a decent standard of living, to build the capabilities to get better jobs, higher incomes and a broader range of benefits. All of these actions require a number of governance interventions and it entails making difficult choices. The NDP provides mechanisms for weighing the different challenges and identifying what to prioritise.

Addressing the scourge of poverty being faced by millions of South Africans is a key priority for government, and the NDP recognises that greater political and economic interventions would be required in rural and agricultural communities, to advance land reform, with the participation of district municipalities agricultural landowners as well as stakeholders such as the private sector, and government agencies such as the Land Bank and the Agricultural Research Council.

With regard to foreign policy, firm proposals that seek to draw the private sector more closely into giving practical effect to South Africa's foreign objectives. The NDP recognises that while governments may negotiate trade deals, it is ‘private companies that actually trade across borders. South African foreign policy needs to draw on the leadership and capabilities of its business community if it is to strengthen collaboration and co-operation on the continent as a reliable partner in Africa, and as part of BRICS.’

This importance of a shared perspective and vision is echoed in Chapter 8 of the Plan that deals with Transforming Human Settlements and the National Space Economy.  In particular, the chapter identifies the need for the development of the national spatial framework that involves the government, business and civil society to address the legacy of apartheid settlement planning. 

The approach of the Plan to ensure change through a virtuous cycle of development places great emphasis on partnerships, particularly in relation to improving education and skills development. One of the partnerships that have been established in response is the National Education Collaboration Trust which brings together government, the private sector, unions and parents organisations.

The NDP recognises that South Africa can fund the transition to a low-carbon future and a more diverse and inclusive economy by leveraging its endowment of natural resources. Chapter 5 proposes that ‘climate change is effectively addressed and mainstreamed in every department, under the supervision of the Presidency and National Planning Commission’ and that the Department of Environmental Affairs’ capacity to provide mechanisms and oversight for the monitoring, reporting and verification of sectoral carbon emissions be strengthened.

Chapter 12 of the NDP has the title ‘Building Safer Communities’ rather than anything relating to policing for a very specific reason. The approach to safety of our people was that it had to involve the people that were most affected. In other words, the view that the NDP takes is that civil-society organisations and civic participation are elements of a safe and secure society. However, it is important that there is clarity on the roles of the state and the community will play and the functioning of the co-ordinating structure. The Plan proposes that the state is best placed to play this role and account to citizens.

State-owned enterprises (SOEs) are central to achieving government’s objective of economic and social development, but require well-defined mandates that are consistently enforced in order to improve their performance. A key aspect is a stable and precise governance structure that defines their mandate in terms of their long-term objectives. The Plan recognises that no single model will work for all SOEs, and it makes proposals to address the tension between the shareholder ministry and the policy ministry. While there is a need for the respective roles of shareholder and policy ministries to be clearly defined they also need to work together to frame the objectives and performance measures embedded in the shareholder or performance compact. The Plan proposes an approach where the shareholder and policy ministries jointly appoint the boards and the boards appoint their chief executives. This enables a clear line of accountability between government and the board, and between the board and the chief executive.

Central to good governance, as mentioned previously, are effective institutions and a capable and developmental state. Ensuring that people with adequate skills are appointed in the public service is an important part of building technical capacity of the state and the NDP make detailed proposals on how to achieve this.

While South Africa had developed several mechanisms to manage integrity and promote ethical conduct in the public service including the public service code of conduct, a Financial Disclosure Framework and rules governing supply chain management, the Plan makes additional proposals to fight corruption in institutions such as

  1. An accountability framework should be developed linking the liability of individual public servants to their responsibilities, in proportion to their seniority.
  2. Rules restricting the business interests of public servants should be made more specific and clearer. Restraint-of-trade agreements should be considered for senior civil servants and politicians at all levels of government
  3. Corrupt officials should be made individually liable for losses.

Approach to implementation

I have listed a wide range of proposals contained in the NDP that are designed to ensure good governance. While this is not a comprehensive list, many are currently being implemented through the Medium Term Strategic Framework (MTSF) 2014 – 2019 which is the first five year implementation plan of the NDP.

For example, in implementing the proposals to promote the effective management of procurement in departments, National Treasury has appointed a Chief Procurement Officer in 2013 who is responsible for overseeing public procurement to ensure that it is ‘conducted in a fair, equitable, transparent, competitive and cost effective’ manner.

Another example is that legislation has been passed by Parliament that aims to prohibit government officials from doing business with the state as a mechanism to regulate conflict of interest and reduce levels of corruption.

Accountability has been enhanced in government. To ensure effective implementation of the MTSF, the President has signed performance agreements with all ministers that set out what each minister is expected to deliver. This is addition to the established practice of entering into performance agreements with directors-general and other senior managers in the public service. The President also meets with ministers periodically to review performance against the signed performance agreements. And on a quarterly basis a progress report on each outcome is presented to Cabinet.

Another significant development in strengthening good governance is the establishment of the planning, monitoring and evaluation function at the centre of government. The Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) is tasked with supporting the President in his role of providing strategic direction to the rest of government through integrated planning, ensuring effective implementation of government priorities through monitoring, and assessing value for money by evaluating whether programmes deliver what they set out to deliver.

A unit has been established in the DPME to assess all strategic plans and annual performance plans of departments to ensure that they are in line with the MTSF and NDP.

In addition, another unit has been established to undertake a socio-economic impact assessment of all policies and legislation to ensure that all our efforts are geared towards achieving the goals set out in the NDP. This is intended to prevent what has become commonly known as unintended consequences of policies.

One of our programmes focuses on assessing the management practices of departments to ensure that they develop the necessary capacity to implement government priorities. Annually, assessments of all national and provincial departments are conducted and the assessment tools and processes used have been customised for local government with a number of municipalities being assessed as well.

We are always looking for more effective ways of accelerating implementation of government programmes. Many of you will be aware of Operation Phakisa, an approach to implementation that has been adapted from the Malaysian methodology called Big Fast Results. We have introduced Operation Phakisa in the Oceans Economy, and in the Health and Education sectors. We are in the process introducing it in the Mining sector.

It is important, however, to bear in mind that the quality of our institutions and the ability to implement policies are strongly dependent on public trust. This trust is not automatic and we are required to constantly keep building it. It is important that we understand the complexity of social cohesion in a country like South Africa with its diverse population, the challenges of poverty and inequality, and the impact of the movement of people on the continent and globally. The approach in the NDP to fostering social cohesion and a common understanding is through daily interactions in shared spaces including cultural and creative arts activities, sports and other recreational facilities, transport and integrated housing. The Plan acknowledges that these measures can only be effective if everyone has access to the same level of services, but this is currently not the case as the wealthy have the resources to gain access to private services.

Our people need to trust that the decisions that we take on their behalf are in their best interest and the sacrifices that they are expected to make will reap tangible benefits in the future.

In building this trust, the NDP advocates for the establishment of a social compact to build a more cohesive and equitable society. This call is made in the context of South Africa’s history of collectively finding solutions such as the political settlement of the 1990s and the drafting of the Constitution. It is therefore important that we rally South Africans around a common vision so that we can all take ownership of it.

By establishing the social compact on a shared vision, we must also acknowledge that while the diverse elements of South African society have different histories, we all share a common, minimum set of objectives which are aimed at improving South African society as a whole. It is only when, as a collective, we acknowledge our challenges and our strengths that we can move forward.

I thank you

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