“Incoherence” is the main challenge to economic growth: first OR Tambo panel

PLAN PANEL: (left to right) Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita (CEO of Ichor Coal NV), Khulekani Mathe (Head of NPC Secretariat), Siki Mgabadeli (Moderator), Neil Coleman (COSATU strategist), Adam Habib (Wits Vice-Chancellor), agree on consensus and coherence for the NDP to work.    Photo: Zelmarie Goosen.

PLAN PANEL: (left to right) Nonkululeko Nyembezi-Heita (CEO of Ichor Coal NV), Khulekani Mathe (Head of NPC Secretariat), Siki Mgabadeli (Moderator), Neil Coleman (COSATU strategist), Adam Habib (Wits Vice-Chancellor), agree on consensus to take the country forward with the NDP.                                                                                          Photo: Zelmarie Goosen.


The main challenge to economic growth—as set out in South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP)—is “incoherence”, according to some experts at Wits on Thursday.

Vice-chancellor Prof Adam Habib called the NDP “incoherent” and said “trade-offs” were needed. The private and public sector as well as trade unions needed to come together and make concessions in order for the NDP to work.

“We need a pact agreement on the NDP, we need a coherent plan that involves the business, labour, government and society,” said Habib.

“The NDP was ideologically driven rather than practical.”

Providing a business perspective, Nonkululeo Nyembezi, CEO of Ichor Coal NV, said there needs to be “frankness between constituents and people in government need to be open”.

The panellists said the reason for the disagreements about the NDP was a lack of consensus on its policies.

Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) strategist Neil Coleman said there was no broad consensus with the implementation of the NDP “and the NDP cannot be implemented without consent from and coherence with the workers.”

Coleman said the NDP was “ideologically driven rather than practical.”


The panelists also argued over whether the NDP would create jobs and whether these jobs would be sustainable.

National Planning Committee Secretariat head Khulekani Mathe said the plan’s goal was to bring unemployment levels below six percent by creating 11 million new jobs by 2030.

However, Coleman countered that these would be unsustainable, low-paying jobs that would threaten economic stability. He said the youth wage subsidy would result in wage repression.

“Repressing wages of first time workers will deepen inequality and economy with not grow,” said Coleman.

Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi, who was present in the audience, told the panel that wage repression would lead to more income inequality and instability in the country.

“When you depress wages of the youth, and whilst you say nothing and in fact celebrate the fact that the CEO’s continues to smile to the banks and take their monies all over the world, then you know that you’re  going to work on political instability,” said Vavi.

Mathe disagreed the NDP would result in wage repression “there’s no way government would impoverish the people by doing that.”

He said the NDP instead supported “wage incentives”.

“What we do propose is a wage incentive, popularly known as the employment tax incentive, which is to try and encourage employers to employ more young people,” Mathe said.

The panellists agreed that income inequality was a problem but disagreed on whether the NDP would reduce the gap between rich and poor.

Coleman said that the NDP aims to decrease the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality in a country, to 0.6 percent. This would still leave South Africa the most unequal country in the world “and this is our ambition,” he said.

The discussion on Thursday was the first of the ten-part OR Tambo Debate Series hosted by the Wits School of Governance.

UPDATED WITH GALLERY: Activists thrown out of Ramaphosa’s NDP lecture

TEMPERS flared as activists and mine workers were thrown out of a lecture by African National Congress ANC Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa at the Wits Great Hall last night.

The activists and mine workers from the Marikana support campaign were disappointed that Ramaphosa did not address the Marikana massacre of 34 miners in his lecture. Last year, police shot and killed the mine workers in the North West province in an ongoing labour dispute.

Instead Ramaphosa spoke about the National Development Plan (NDP) which was adopted as a policy by government.

Outraged activists and mine workers 

The Marikana support campaign activists expressed their outrage at Ramaphosa for not talking about the government’s refusal to pay for legal representation of the mine workers at the official commission of inquiry.

Alfred Moyo, one of the activists, accused Ramaphosa of lying to people in his lecture.

“There is no there is no community participation in the NDP. He does not address anything about Marikana and miners’ challenges. They [government] have blood on their hands. We have South Africans living in informal settlements, we have no services.This talk is busy is total rubbish. He is here to lie to people,” Moyo told Wits Vuvuzela.

Claire Ceruti, activist with the Democratic Left Front was thrown out of the lecture for telling Ramaphosa that he has blood on his hands. Ceruti had previously protested against Trevor Manuel at the Ruth First Memorial Lecture in the same venue.

Ceruti said Ramaphosa tried to make himself look good by averting questions about Marikana, as she was expecting him to take responsibility.

“It’s disgusting that he sits there as someone who makes profits. These are the people who gave the go ahead for the trigger at the Marikana massacre. He defended the police for their actions, by sending emails to the police commissioner,” Ceruti said.


Marikana commission of inquiry 

Ramaphosa, speaking about the commission of inquiry said the story of Marikana still needs to be told and addressed fully.

“Many people feel the pain for Marikana. It’s deeply regretted,” he told the audience which were not convinced.

Ramaphosa was boo’ed throughout his speech by the activists. They also carried posters which read: “Don’t let the politicians get away with murder, Marikana support campaign.”

In response to the posters Ramaphosa said people with papers cannot distract those without papers. We must respect each other’s right to speak.”


Zooming in on the NDP

On the NDP Ramaphosa noted that South Africa’s economy does not serve the interest of people as it creates few jobs, skills levels are poor in the country and that inequality plagues society.

“The NDP serves as a vision to overcome key challenges; inequality which we have inherited, poverty and unemployment which also has roots in our past. The NDP is a plan that can deliver faster economic growth and inclusive growth. Ills are plentiful, there are many problems that beset the nation. The NDP provides pragmatic plan to transform the economy”.

The contentious plan has been rejected by trade unions, which claim the policy will not solve the country’s socio-economic issues.

[pullquote align=”right”]”Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes.”[/pullquote]

Ramaphosa said he welcomed debate around the NDP.

He added: “We are a nation of people who love to talk, we are noisy and robust, that is good. We would love to get full agreement, especially in our country. Those views need to be given a platform to be articulated. “There has been resistance to the NDP, which needs to be debated. Those who are criticising the plan need to engage with the plan. We all want what is best for our people and the country.”

Some members of the audience scoffed at his assertion that socio-economic change has occurred.

Socio-economic change?

Ramaphosa’s assertion that wages have increased since 1994 and that workers have won the right to strike did not bode well with mine workers in attendance.

A Lonmin Platinum miner who shot by police during wage disputes said Ramaphosa’s lecture was a campaign strategy for next year’s national elections. He refused to be named.

“Ramaphosa just came here to canvass. He just wants votes. There is no promises and change for poor people. He just bought a buffalo [which he placed a R20-million bid on and lost], he should have given the money to suffering people,” the mine worker said.

Ramaphosa said the NDP policy is not perfect. He added: “We will continue to engage. Where there are gaps, well work with society to fill the gaps. We need to implement the NDP.”