The NDP at five: lessons learnt, emerging challenges and enhancing implementation


The plan was about our dreams and aspirations and actionable steps to achieve them, said Minister Jeff Radebe, in recounting its successes.

The NDP is a call to action for all South African’s say Minister Jeff Radebe. (Image: GovZA)

Sulaiman Philip

The National Development Plan (NDP) was adopted five years ago this month. Jeff Radebe, minister for planning, monitoring and evaluation, speaking at Unisa at the annual NDP Lecture reminded the audience that it was a roadmap to a transformed future for South Africa.

It was also, Radebe reminded the group of students and academics, the 40th anniversary of the death of Steve Biko. As they celebrated Biko the leader, the minister said they should not forget his inspirational words: “We must remind ourselves, Biko also said, ‘In a bid for change, we have to take off our coats, be prepared to lose our comfort and security, our positions of prestige…’

“And it is in the unity of that struggle, in the battle of ideas, that Biko so majestically articulated that our true worth as a nation, as South Africa, would become timeless if we could ensure that our ideas, great as they were, were implemented, actioned and executed. It is purposeful action, impact and implemetation of our NDP that we require now, more urgently than ever before.”

Implementation of the NDP and Vision 2030 had not been easy, the minister admitted, and the government was calling on all South Africans to look upon the plan as theirs and to help, where they could, in implementing it. It was only through a shared sense of purpose that South Africa could build a better life for all. The government, he said, was determined to live up to the vision of the NDP. “Thus it is, that we must tread carefully as leaders too – for we should not dare to tread on the dreams of our people. We must forge ahead and deliver on the mandate our people gave us and bring about the necessary step change in the socio-economic conditions of our people.”

A focus on youth and gender equality

The NDP is built on six pillars – mobilisation of all people living in South Africa; a population involved in their own development; expanding and growing an inclusive economy; building capability; fostering strong leadership; and building a strong developmental state. It places a special emphasis on the development of and creating opportunities for youth in a society that offers women equal opportunities.

Legislation informed by the NDP pillars have created opportunities for young South African’s. (Image: World Bank)

These groups, according to recent Statistics South Africa figures, remain the most vulnerable in the republic. While economic growth in the last quarter lifted the country out of a recession, Radebe pointed out, youth unemployment remained a serious issue and was one of South Africa’s most intractable socio-economic issues. The personification of poverty in South Africa remained a young, uneducated black woman. “This needs resolution; it calls for serious introspection and concerted efforts to tackle the scourge of poverty, inequality and unemployment. Nobody made a greater mistake than those who did nothing because they could do only a little.”

He highlighted programmes that put youth empowerment at the centre of the NDP’s development strategy.

His department, Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, set up the National Youth Development Ambassador Programme to boost entrepreneurship among young people. To be selected to participate, individuals must be between 18 and 35, and must be committed to driving change in their communities and the country at large. In addition, the government had built more technical and vocational education and training colleges and had made more funding available through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme for university students. The Employment Tax Incentive Act, passed in 2013, had helped young people enter the labour market and gain vital real world job experience.

An investment in the youth of South Africa, Radebe said, was an investment in the future of the country. “This is a very important venture to ensure that the youth are self-sufficient. The youth of today are the ones who will witness the fruition of our Vision 2030. They must be the key drivers of NDP programmes today.”

“The youth of today are the ones who will witness the fruition of our Vision 2030. They must be the key drivers of NDP programmes today.” (Image: World Bank)

In the government and the public sector, the representation of women is nudging closer to 50%; however, women are still more likely to be poor and uneducated. The NDP sets out measures to improve their conditions, especially for women in rural areas who still struggle to access education and healthcare, and do not have ownership of the land they tend.


Over the past five years, there had been successes to which the government could point, the minister told his audience. These successes were across multiple sectors of the economy and in the social upliftment of the most in need.

Health, education, mining, agriculture and the ocean economy had all benefitted from interventions through Operation Phakisa, an NDP programme. Since 2014, the various Operation Phakisa initiatives had unlocked R7-billion worth of investments and created 6,903 new jobs. The establishment of six industrial development zones, through the Special Economic Zones programme, had attracted R10.7-billion in investment.

The NDP had targeted tourism as a growth industry. Initiatives had helped to grow the sector, and its contribution to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) had increased from R372-billion in 2014 to R375-billion in 2015; tourist arrivals figures had increased by about 50%. Total tourist foreign direct spend rose from R67.9-billion to R189.2-billion.

Over the five years of its implementation to date, the NDP had improved conditions for millions of South Africans. Among the successes were:

  • 331,000 new homes have been built;
  • 305,00 new households have been connected to sources of clean water (12% of the 2019 target of 2.3 million) and a further 1.12 million homes now have access to decent sanitation (45% of the 2019 target);
  • The 2019 target for access to refuse removal is 1.3 million households and the NDP has reached just over a million households;
  • 724,430 households have been connected to the electricity grid since 2014 (58% of the 2019 target of 1.25 million) and 52,778 households have been connected to non-grid (50% of the 2019 target of 105 000 households);
  • 3,455 schools have been connected to the internet and have received devices through Operation Phakisa ICT and the matric pass rate improved to 72.5% in 2016 from 70.7% in 2015 while Bachelor passes increased to 162,374 in 2016 from 150,752 in 2014;
  • Improved access to healthcare has raised South Africans’ life expectancy by six years and maternal mortality has decreased from 158 per 100,000 live births to 154 over a year. The Child Mortality Rate (under five) has improved from 41 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2014 to 37 per 1,000 live births in 2016;
  • More than 3.7 million HIV-positive people are receiving lifelong antiretroviral therapy.

The mandate paper

The government’s embrace of the NDP had changed the way it thought about budgetary priorities. Adopted in August 2017, the National Planning Commission’s Mandate Paper aligned government spending to meet priorities in higher education, social security and job creation.

The new policy would help departments prioritise spending to meet not only priorities in the NDP but to ensure that budgets were more agile in meeting plans set out in the Medium Term Strategic Framework. The paper would, in future, precede the budgeting process and would help to identify priorities based on economic conditions. “We are exploring new, effective and better avenues for socio-economic development in our country as we implement the NDP.”

The NDP will influence the way ministries allocate budget resources. (Image: GovZA)

As Radebe reminded his audience, the NDP was an opportunity for South Africa to recreate the future. It gave South Africans the chance to identify ways for each one to play a part and become active citizens. “The NDP is a call to action to unite as a country and identifies the role different sectors of society need to play in reaching its goal. The plan is about our dreams and aspirations and actionable steps to achieve them.”

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