“For us as a country, to achieve such broad consensus on an important document is something that is not very common. I don’t think countries who have development commissions have succeeded to have a plan that is embraced by the overwhelming majority,” South Africa's President Jacob Zuma said in an exclusive interview with CNBC Africa.
“To me this is one of the landmarks of our country because from time to time it measures with consensus of the population. No document in the world could be presented that everybody agrees with but I think this plan presents a coherent approach of where the country must go.”
The National Development Plan (NDP) has met significant opposition from tripartite alliance members the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) and the South African Communist Party (SACP). The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) in particular rejected the plan, accusing it of being a right-wing policy.
Government has however supported the National Development Plan as an outline of alleviating poverty, creating jobs and to boost economic growth, but has been so far received with harsh criticism from civil society.
“The fact of the matter is we have a country to govern, we’ve got to deliver. Any politician would want their policies supported. If a document has the overwhelming support of the country, anyone would be happy with that,” added Zuma, explaining that in majority of cases, national plans are usually done by the ruling party and government and not necessarily an entire society.
Drawing up the example of the country’s Freedom Charter, Zuma illustrated the same opposition the NDP had now that the charter, as much as it crafted the kind of society the country had wanted to see today.
“We should express our views, we’re a democratic country. We’re no longer oppressed. I take the point that people must express it publically but we must also say, having made public statements, let us engage on the very issues as to how do we see it, where do we go, “he said.
South Africa’s economy has come under pressure since the start of the second quarter, which has been exacerbated by an unstable mining sector. The rand has equally been under significant pressure, having plummeted to the 10 rand mark against the dollar in May.
“Unless we have got a better vision, give us. But we can’t wait and debate, we’ve got to deliver to the people. We have got to create jobs and make south Africa a better country so we are saying let us engage,” said Zuma.