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Platform for a new social consensus?

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Platform for a new social consensus?

22nd July 2011

By: Terence Creamer
Creamer Media Editor

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National Planning Commission (NPC) deputy chairperson Cyril Ramaphosa has attempted to draw parallels between South Africa’s successful Constitution-making process, in which he was intimately involved, and the current process to draft a 2030 vision and implementation plan for the country.

Speaking at a recent function moderated by Roelf Meyer, a key partner in the development of the country’s much-vaunted Constitution during the mid-1990s, Ramaphosa said the idea is to build consensus around this new vision, much as was done during the drafting of Constitution, which took account of some two-million submissions.

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A number of the NPC’s 26 commissioners are, thus, currently engaged with public consultation processes to brief provincial leaders on the recently published ‘diagnostic overview’, as well as to prepare the way for the crafting of a final document, which will be published at “11:00 on, the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 2011”.

The aspiration is for the final product to offer a statement that “brings goose bumps” to South Africa’s jaded citizenry, much as the Preamble to South Africa’s Constitution reportedly does every time Ramaphosa re-reads it.

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The challenge, though, will be to present the vision as being something fresh and vibrant in a context where there is unlikely to be anything dramatically new in either the diagnosis of the problems, or in the solutions proffered.

Even the nine challenges identified in the diagnostic overview, which cover everything from the poor state of public education and the high levels of unemployment and inequality, to the threat posed by rising levels of corruption, are widely known. Similarly, the solutions are unlikely to be completely novel.

Instead, what Ramaphosa and his fellow commissioners, led by Minister in the Presidency Responsible for the National Planning Commission Trevor Manuel, are seeking to offer is a platform for recapturing South Africa’s propensity for building social consensus – what Ramaphosa refers to as “South Africa’s DNA”.

Such a platform will take its cue from the unlikely, but successful, partnership forged between the then National Party’s Meyer and the African National Congress’ Ramaphosa, who agreed that there could be “no problem without a solution”.

Guided by that principle, the commissioners believe the process itself could form the basis for a rejuvenated social compact between government and civil society, premised on building a “better South Africa”.

Ramaphosa promises the plan will not be encumbered by party political agendas, nor by ideological tendencies. It will be premised, he avers, on evidence-based research designed to offer an unvarnished diagnosis of the challenges and honest insight into the trade-offs involved in arriving at the possible solutions.

He notes that only three of the commissioners – himself, Manuel and Joel Netshitenzhe – sit on any structure of the governing African National Congress.

“The rest of the commissioners do not sit on the executive committee of the ruling party and we are, therefore, not behoven to the ruling party. We are behoven to South Africa Inc. What we are doing has to be for the interest of the people of South Africa and we have to go beyond party political interest and we have to go beyond the political ferment that may well be out there,” he concludes.

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