CORRUPTION was a spanner in the works of state machinery and the biggest threat to the implementation of the National Development Plan (NDP).
This was said in Buffalo City yesterday by Trevor Manuel, Minister in the Presidency in charge of the NDP.
Manuel said public servants accused of stealing or abusing their positions should be suspended without pay – starting with the eight policemen accused of dragging Mozambican taxi driver Mido Macia behind a van to his death later in a cell.
He was addressing more than 200 Eastern Cape leaders attending the first environment and tourism economic symposium jointly hosted by the Daily Dispatch, the University of Fort Hare, and the provincial department of development, economic affairs and tourism .
Manuel said the NDP had been accepted from President Jacob Zuma to the broad public as the exciting roadmap to South Africa’s future.
But he stressed that implementation started in the engine room – the machinery of the state – which was being jammed by “fundamentals”.
He listed these as:
l Public servants doing business with government, who were too distracted to do their jobs, forcing the state to pay exorbitant fees to numerous consultants;
l Corruption in supply chain management in which cronies in the employ of the “train driver” also sold the company coal for the train;
l Unionised teachers who were unaccountable for their under-performance and too quickly resorted to striking, and;
l A failure of the system of financial oversight and checks and balances.
He urged South Africans to stop “opting out” of society, and return to the democratic development route the country had chosen.
“We cannot build a national plan without support from all South Africans, which is why we need the national conversation.
“We need to commit to the path we have chosen. If we remain steadfast, we will reach our destination.”
South Africans from right across society needed to work at implementing the plan with “conviction and tenacity” and to only celebrate when money had been spent and projects were completed.
He said public servants who did not want to work had to be “rooted out” and replaced with people, preferably younger ones, who wanted “to serve”.
“The commission’s call is: Let us fix the engine room and a lot of other issues will fall into place.
“We have to focus on implementation, praxis (learning from doing) and we have to strengthen our leadership.”
Poverty, unemployment and inequality – which the plan sought to resolve – were destroying communities, and leaders had to rise above sectional interests in order to pull SA forward.
Moderator and Daily Dispatch editor Brendan Boyle said he was hearing Manuel pinning down accountability as the biggest problem.
Manuel responded to a struggle veteran, who asked what Manuel could do for him: “It’s not what you (Manuel) can do for us. It is what we can do together. If that is what you are waiting for, you will die angry, poor and unemployed .” — firstname.lastname@example.org