Despite the compounding challenges of unemployment, crime, gender-based violence, rising cost of living and inequalities we remain resilient in our pursuit of rebuilding the economy, social cohesion and social compact towards achieving the National Development Plan’s (NDP) objectives, said the Minister of the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, Ms Maropene Ramokgopa when she presented her department’s budget vote in Parliament recently.

“As we reflect on the 30 years of our democracy, we are left with less than seven years to realise the objectives of the NDP and we recognise the milestones achieved in expanding access to free education, social security and strengthening of our justice system.” These objectives, she pointed out, are linked to the 6th Parliament’s undertaking to cultivate a developmental state that is ethical with a strategic leadership that will ensure the effective use of government resources, embrace long planning and that will create institutions with capacity to deliver on services.

Reflecting on her department’s strategic role, which is to strengthen coordination in all spheres of government and provide frameworks that seek to professionalise the public service and ensure that the state’s service delivery priorities are achieved, she said her department is guided by the State of the Nation’s priorities. Her department’s role is to embed these priorities in departments’ budgetary processes.

In addition: “We facilitate critical stakeholders and development partners to reconfigure the state through innovation and research, initiatives that would harness technology and AI to unblock development.” Speaking about the current energy crisis, she stated that an Economic Crisis Committee has been established to coordinate energy generation and end loadshedding, and to plan for the South Africa that we all want.

The Acting Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Service, Planning and Administration, Ms Teliswa Mgweba, a member of the Portfolio Committee on Women, Youth and People with Disabilities, remarked that planning “… assists in analysing the department’s performances in planning and implementing its annual performance plans and targets, without which, it would be difficult to measure the success and effective implementation of its plans.”

She criticised what she identified as a trend, in which departments amend their targets without talking to the Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation department first. To remedy this, legislation such as the Integrated Development Framework Bill would help to harmonise government’s planning systems and improve service delivery. In addition, the District Development Model “would optimise planning, implementation of budget and bring about a single public service that will improve the agility of the state.”

Mr Zakhele Mbele of the Democratic Alliance said key to the government’s developmental objectives is a capable state with the skills and political will to overcome the challenges of its development plans. However, despite the minister's assurances, a capable state has never been more elusive than now, he contested. “It’s astounding that this government habours such a lofty fantasy for itself.”

He went on to say to the Minister: “If you believe government has created an enabling environment for business amidst load-shedding, crumbling infrastructure, then I am afraid this reinforces the fantasy land that this government inhabits.” He urged the government to decentralise planning to allow local and provincial governments to take a lead role of planning concurrent competencies.

Ms Rosina Komane, a member of the Economic Freedom Fighters, said there Is no planning in government. “People just wake up every morning and do as they wish. Hence, it took more than 20 years to deliver water to people of Giyani,” she said. In her view, there is no need to have this ministry because government has no capacity to plan despite its existence.

Sadly, she stated, government speaks of planning when there is no meaningful engagement between national and provincial governments. What we face is not a problem of planning but a crisis of leadership.

Abel Mputing
22 May 2023