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Zuma's Non-Legacy: Initiator And Destroyer Of The NDP

His glaring legacy is a total failure of leadership that has presided over many things that are opposite to what the NDP envisaged.

08/12/2017 10:11 SAST | Updated 08/12/2017 10:12 SAST
REUTERS/Khaled Elfiqi/Pool
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma attends the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) summit in Sharm el-Sheikh July 15, 2009.

Marc Davies

It's almost indisputable that many South Africans can't wait to see the back of Zuma.

A lot of comparisons and wishful thinking were apparent when Zimbabwe saw the back of Mugabe a few weeks ago. But many ask themselves as we prepare to see the last of Zuma as ANC president later this month: what was this man's legacy since he took over the reigns as ANC president?

Many analysts I've spoken to are hard-pressed to find much of a legacy that he brings other than a wrecking ball across various state institutions. They sum up Zuma as someone who has taken the ANC down a path out of which "it will require decades to recover".

But if we are kind we should agree that the National Development Plan (NDP) is probably the only positive thing that can be attributed to the Zuma years. A country that does not have a plan cannot hope to be able to tackle the debilitating challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality.

Zuma's tenure has seen the worst poverty levels with Stats SA reporting that 55.5% percent of the country in 2015 lived in poverty, while the unemployment rate is at its highest in decades at some estimated 27 percent -- a figure that does not even take into account millions who have stopped looking for work.

Inequality is also at its worst with South Africa carrying a badge of shame as one of the most unequal societies in the world. With these terrible indicators there was no alternative but to craft a plan that can bring all South Africans together regardless of political differences.

Zuma achieved this, no matter what you may think of the guy. The last time all political parties agreed on something of significance was when the Constituent Assembly adopted the Constitution 21 years ago.

The NDP saw all parliamentary parties converge under Zuma's planning commission and to his credit, he retained Trevor Manuel who the post-Polokwane mob wanted out to stay and actually lead the delivery of this vision.

Many fail to give Zuma credit for this plan mostly because there seems to be no strategy to effectively implement it. Many Ministers no longer talk about it and Zuma himself has stopped referring to it in light of the new flavour of the month called radical economic transformation.

Extra parliamentary opposition to the NDP was also scant. The SACP with no history of contesting economic policy by the ANC had no answer to the NDP and COSATU equally failed to present any alternative. The EFF that came into the system years after the NDP was adopted is yet to present any credible economic alternative other than unrealistic slogans and platitudes that so far have been roundly rejected by voters no matter how radical they may be sounding to the ears of those who shout them.

The reason I am giving Zuma credit for this is because its next steps – that of implementation don't even have to rely on him. The DA as official opposition and a government in numerous cities and a major province must also answer the question about how they are implementing the NDP.

They, after all, adopted it in 2012! It is no longer enough to blame the ANC for poor management. They need to demonstrate leadership on this question where they are in charge. Zuma does not have leadership mettle at national level to pull off what it takes to implement a vision articulated in the NDP.

His glaring legacy is a total failure of leadership that has presided over many things that are opposite to what the NDP envisaged.

Let's take a look at just two of these that are intricately linked: education and the economy.

A collapsed education system

The NDP assumes a society with high levels of numeracy and literacy. This is the only way that such a society can take advantage of economic opportunities envisaged by the plan. Under Zuma the education system has been mismanaged resulting in our country having the worst numeracy and literacy levels in the world.

READ: Shocking Study Shows SA Kids 'Can't Read For Meaning'

As if that is not enough, questionable policy pronouncements such as the place of mathematics in the education value chain and the general wanton lowering of standards have plagued Zuma's tenure with a hapless Minister of Education focusing on the wrong indicators such as manipulated matric results.

Higher Education is also in a crisis of access and has seen a poor vision in this regard. A matter that could have been a low hanging fruit for the meeting of a major NDP objective to destroy illiteracy was mismanaged badly on the alter of poor leadership.

A collapsed economy

The NDP makes assumptions of a 7 percent growth rate. Under Zuma we are at Zero economic growth and his decisions have ensured that we are no where near this NDP target.

The NDP envisages a collaborative relationship with social partners. Zuma has done everything to destroy business confidence.

It is at the lowest in decades and he dealt it even a firmer blow by firing a credible finance Minister and mumbling inexplicabilities where the economy is concerned.

When you assess the consequences of Zuma's actions you have to shudder to think what would happen if his proxy were to take over in December. We are already on notice by various rating agencies and on junk status on the rest. We are unlikely to recover soon enough from the effects of the recession.

Every single indicator is a vote of no confidence in what Zuma has done to the economy and frankly no one believes that he even understands what the NDP says about what the economy needs.

A combination of just these two factors is enough calamity before we go chapter and verse of the 700 billion rand wasted on corruption and the state capture crisis that has engulfed parastatals.

These things militate against the only legacy Zuma can point to. He recently redeployed a Deputy Minister in his office in charge of monitoring and evaluation showing his loss of interest in an instrument he established to oversee the ANC's Achilles heal – policy implementation.

Do we have a leadership that can go through the eye of the needle of effective implementation of the National Development Plan? Or are we going to be faced with a new-wine-in-old-wineskins scenario where Zuma's poor legacy of failure of leadership will linger way after we have seen his back?

I am nervous. After Zuma's last supper with presidential hopefuls it is clear that he is worried that he will hand over an ANC in tatters to whoever will succeed him.

It really wont matter to the majority of voters who will decide the ANC's fate depending on who they elect to succeed Zuma.

Whoever it is – they have their work cut out to either make the NDP a real legacy by implementing it or to make it a meaningless slogan that will be a sentence in the downward spiral of the ANC.