President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SOWETAN
President Jacob Zuma. Picture: SOWETAN

SOUTH Africa has been waiting for evidence of the National Development Plan’s (NDP’s) implementation ever since this long-term vision of South Africa’s economic future was enthusiastically endorsed by the ANC at its Mangaung conference in December.

President Jacob Zuma picked up on the theme in his state of the nation address last week, but disappointed many by failing to put any flesh on the bones; the projects and initiatives he mentioned were largely already in the public domain, and Mr Zuma restricted himself to providing a progress report.

There was rather more substance to Planning Minister Trevor Manuel’s briefing in Parliament on Tuesday on the first new steps the government intends taking to implement the NDP. Phrases such as "capable state", "clean audit" and "minimum standards" will have been music to the ears of South Africans, and the business community in particular. Incompetent and underqualified public servants are part of the reason service delivery is so poor in some areas, and the proposed skills audit and removal of unqualified managers and accounting officers is long overdue.

So, too, the pledge to tighten up the management of the state’s supply chain to cut costs, reduce corruption and put a lid on administered costs such as electricity tariffs. Mr Manuel and an increasing number of his Cabinet colleagues are starting to make the right noises, but companies have heard it all before. Investors, in particular, want to see evidence of success in achieving these aims before they put their hands in their pockets. Perhaps next week’s budget speech will take things further and help reinforce business confidence.

It is hard, though, to reconcile Mr Zuma’s statement in his state of the nation address that R860bn will have been spent on infrastructure projects between 2009 and March this year with the more detailed progress report delivered by Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba this week. Mr Zuma mentioned the first phase of the Mokolo and Crocodile River water augmentation project, which will provide some of the water required for Eskom’s Matimba and Medupi power stations, as well as work on the bulk water distribution system for the De Hoop dam, which began in October and will supply water to the Greater Sekhukhune, Waterberg and Capricorn district municipalities. Mr Gigaba said the Medupi power generation plant is 58% complete, with total spending of R60.4bn to date. The Mokolo and Crocodile water augmentation project is about 30% complete, with total spending of R526.1m so far, and the De Hoop dam and pipeline are 15% complete, with total spending of R505m. Another R807m has been spent on the Komati water scheme to help resolve water supply problems to Eskom’s Duvha and Matla power stations, and the project is more than 60% complete. Along with spending R16.9bn on the new multiproduct fuel pipeline in the Durban-Free State-Gauteng logistics corridor, R2.7bn has also been spent on rolling stock.

That all sounds most encouraging, except the projects listed by Mr Gigaba do not amount to anything close to the R860bn Mr Zuma mentioned. The Department of Economic Development has since indicated that the ministers involved in the state’s infrastructure cluster will brief the media in greater detail in coming days, so it is to be hoped there will soon be clarity on the infrastructure development programme’s implementation.

Meanwhile, the department states on the government information website that the Cabinet recently adopted its New Growth Path as the framework for economic policy and driver of South Africa’s jobs strategy. This would appear to contradict the emphasis that other departments are placing on the NDP as the social and economic blueprint for South Africa — contrary to the department’s line, the two do not always mesh.