South Africa’s new National Planning Commission, tasked with guiding government decisions on the country's future growth, boasts leading experts from a range of diverse sectors, putting it in a better position “to change the way government works”, President Jacob Zuma said when announcing the panel.
The commission is tasked with producing a long-term development plan and development vision strategy for the country, which would shape government’s policies.
Zuma announced the appointment of the 25 commission members, who will work with Minister in the Presidency for National Planning Trevor Manuel, at a ceremony in Pretoria on 30 April. “Members of the commission represent various areas of expertise and reflect a diversity of experiences and perspectives,” he said. “These individuals bring a broad range of expertise to the work of the commission.”
Manuel chairs the commission, with top businessman and politician Cyril Ramaphosa as his deputy. The panel includes experts from sectors such as finance, telecommunications, biotechnology, rural development, governance, energy, education, health, food security and climate change.
Other key members of the commission, appointed from a list of 1 280 candidates, include former government policy maker Joel Netshitendze, former chairperson of Eskom Bobby Godsell, vice-chancellor and principal of the University of KwaZulu-Natal Professor Malegapuru Makgoba and Jerry Vilakazi, CEO of Business Unity South Africa.
The commission will work with a full-time secretariat, based in the Presidency, to lead research “on a range of issues that impact on our long term development”, Zuma said. It will produce “well-researched, evidence-based” reports on sectors such as water security, climate change, food security, energy security, infrastructure planning, human resource development, defence and security, structuring the economy, spatial planning and demographic trends.
“The Commission is asked to take an independent, cross-cutting, critical and long term view of these issues,” said Zuma.
Their research will focus on all three spheres of the country’s government – national and provincial government, and local municipalities.
The secretariat, yet to be set up, will work with key think-tank institutions such as the Human Sciences Research Council, the Development Bank of Southern Africa, the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, universities and other research institutions.
“This exercise will enable us to make government’s policies and plans more coherent and focused on achieving the type of society that we all envisage,” the president said.
Zuma’s administration first announced the National Planning Commission in 2009 when it named its cabinet. Manuel, the former treasury minister, was appointed to head it and will report the commission’s proposals to cabinet.
The administration seeks to “do things differently and would work consistently to change the way government works, in order to improve service delivery”, Zuma said.
The first meeting of the commission is set for 10 and 11 May.
The planning commission is critical in helping South Africa achieve its Vision 2025, the government has said. The programme will be “an articulation of the type of society all South Africans would want to see in about 15 year’s time”, according to the commissions green paper, crafted by Manuel.
Vision 2025 addresses pressing issues such as the reduction of poverty, unemployment rate, HIV/Aids infection rate and growth rate, among others. The aim is to achieve higher improvement of living conditions in South Africa by 2015.
The 25 members of the National Planning Commission are: