The Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution (CASAC) releases its report entitled ‘From Subject to Citizen: Let the People Govern’ today.
We welcome the opportunity provided by the NPC to engage with its National Development Plan (NDP) - Vision 2030 and in the spirit of this engagement our response offers a constructively critical assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of the policy proposals of the NDP and of the underlying diagnostic studies on which it is based.
It seeks to ensure that the vision articulated by the NPC is premised on the goals and standards to which South African society aspires, and which are embodied in the South African Constitution. To the extent that poverty, inequality and unemployment are rampant and the gap between the rich and poor has widened, it is clear that the constitution’s vision of an equitable society, characterised by human dignity, fairness and justice, has not been realised.
Transformation is the cardinal mandate of our Constitution. Central to it is the realisation of an inclusive economy through restorative justice that enables redress of the systematic race and gender based inequalities of the past. Our Constitution envisages a participatory democracy in which citizens play an active role in the reconceptualization, reconstruction and development of their country. This will require liberating South Africa’s people from being ‘subjects’ of state rule, dependent on the government largesse for their development, to becoming active ‘citizens’ and partners in governance.
The report notes that an incompetent state is a major stumbling block to the realisation of the constitutional vision. Our failure to successfully transform and re-orientate the state to be aligned with the new constitutional mandate is compounded by patronage (often masked as cadre deployment). The deterioration in the capability of the state also results from the socialisation of the new entrants into the culture of corruption, secrecy and lack of accountability that characterised the apartheid state.
There are problems with the capability of state institutions in implementing policies across a range of sectors. Policy development tends to be heavily focused on process (e.g. consultation) rather than handling the practicalities of implementation (such as resource and skills constraints).
South Africans need to have a common vision of the society we are building; one that is grounded in the Constitution and based on shared values. To achieve such citizen common
purpose, it is critical to encourage citizens to participate actively in governance. People need to be integrally involved in engaging with all the priorities identified in the NDP, particularly improving education and health.
‘From Subject to Citizen: Let the People Govern’ deals with the following issues –it does not purport to be a comprehensive critique of the NDP:
1. Towards an inclusive rural economy – we ask how section 25 of the Constitution relating to property rights impacts on the prospects for the successful pursuit of the commitment to land reform and transformation. How should the ‘just and equitable’ standard of compensation for expropriated land be determined? The NDP, unlike the Constitution, does not adequately emphasize land as an instrument of transformation and social justice, and does not clarify the role of traditional leaders vis-à-vis municipalities.
2. Human settlements - Formal housing delivery comprises a dual system; government supplied subsidy housing at the bottom and bank financed development at the top, with a ‘missing middle’ which is excluded from the main housing delivery channels. There is scope for structuring an income-based, as opposed to an interest rate-based financing instrument for home ownership in South Africa.
3. Employment & the economy - The probability of creating 11 million additional jobs is slim because of structural unemployment in which vacancies for highly skilled workers co-exist with severe unemployment at the low skills end of the labour market. More emphasis should be placed on employability, bridging the gap between educational qualifications and occupational competence. There should be a focus on small business and the informal sector, with an enlightened approach to enterprise development and local economic development.
4. Transition to a low carbon economy – while the NDP deals with the issue of freshwater briefly, it fails to make the systemic links between the freshwater and other six life support systems (e.g. oceans, ozone layer, biodiversity, nitrogen, land based and climate).
5. The developmental role of ICT – the NDP fails to recognize the potential of ICT to stimulate economic growth and support the information flows necessary for effective democratic participation and accountability. Access of poor, particularly rural, people to ICTs should be increased through regulated effort. Barriers to be overcome include: the low internet penetration particularly outside main centres, the prohibitively high costs, inadequate broadband infrastructure, limited content in local languages, and the absence of an integrated strategy for harnessing the potential of the internet for social, cultural, economic and political development.
6. Social development services - we need to re-think the development model and the relationship between the citizen and the state to create employability and social stability. The structure of the grant system should be seen as an investment in employability, and the establishment of a ‘social compact’ that sees a poor subject move from a position of dependency to a productive citizen. Government should fund NPOs appropriately and create an environment of funding certainty. Criteria for allocating funds to individual NPOs should be clear and information on funding decisions transparent, with an independent appeals process in place.
7. Education - While the NDP’s emphasis on increased training of teachers is critical, what is equally important is the way teachers are trained – so that teacher qualifications are more closely correlated with teaching competence. To strengthen school governing bodies we
need to address the lack of in governance capacity in poor, black and coloured schools in rural areas and townships. The SETA system is fatally flawed and has spectacularly failed to deliver the skills development required for a competitive and inclusive economy. A return to artisan training is urged, with consideration given to the introduction of a private sector mandated apprenticeship system.
8. Health - The national health system suffers from a pervasive disorder with multiple consequences: poor loci of authority, weak accountability and resulting marginalization of clinical processes combined with low staff morale. While the principle of primary healthcare has been frequently stated in all health policies, it is inconsistently implemented. For proper effect to be given to this principle, ward or community health committees should be established in which citizens are empowered to participate and solve problems, working with civil servants in partnership relationships.
9. The capability of the state - The strategic re-orientation of the public service should be aimed at achieving a capable state with a culture of high performance. The structure of the state needs to be aligned with the Constitution. There needs to be a fundamental paradigm shift from “service delivery” to and on behalf of citizens as passive recipients to facilitating communities’ ability to shape their own developmental destinies. The hierarchical, top-down planning and implementation model in state institutions (the “machine” model) needs to be replaced by other models of organisation (such as the “brain” model) more suited to complex, emergent policy environments. Political deployment should be regulated differently to ensure competence in line with the constitutional requirement of a professional public service.
10. Promoting accountability & fighting corruption - the NPC appears to be caught between two stools in seeking to prescribe a means of tackling corruption. In its Diagnostic it lamented that the “numerous anti-corruption agencies and laws and forums also present their own problems due to overlapping mandates and the lack of strategic coordination of investigating bodies”. However the National Development Plan proposes strengthening the multi-agency anti-corruption system, arguing that a single agency approach is open to political capture. The report proposes the creation of an independent anti-corruption agency (commission) with a three-pronged strategy of enforcement (including investigation and referral for prosecution), prevention, and public education. We must also address corruption from a systemic developmental and transformation lens - every aspect of transforming South Africa should be configured to eradicate corruption through overarching systemic transformatory practice.
The full report, ‘From Subject to Citizen: Let the People Govern’ is available at www.casac.org.za
Enquiries: Lawson Naidoo
073 158 5736