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The National Development Plan five years on

Prof Mandla Makhanya (Principal and VC)

Prof Mandla Makhanya, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Unisa, and the Unisa School of Governance held the fifth National Development Plan (NDP) public lecture on Friday 4 October 2019 under the theme "The role of the National Development Plan Vision 2030 and its impact on the Transformation of the Socio-Economic and Political Life of Women in Post 1994 in the Republic of South Africa".

In his opening address, Makhanya said that he hoped that Minister Jackson Mthembu’s input on the lecture would assist in reflecting and gaining insight into what government considers some of the strides made since the dawn of our democracy in relation to the development of women. He explained that as a university, we would like to hear about stubborn challenges that we must confront as a nation, and how government intends to address them. "These reflections and strategies are important to us because ours is a responsibility, amongst others, to teach, thus producing graduates who can add to the skills pool to assist the country to address some of the challenges facing the citizenry," he said.

"Our research output, other than some of it legitimately being about pursuit of knowledge, must assist the nation to overcome some of its challenges or, at the very least, to understand them. To be truly scientific in our pursuit of knowledge and at times solutions to society’s challenges, we must always be able to respond to some of the realities facing us on the ground," added Makhanya.

Emphasising the theme, Makhanya said that the lecture came at a time when the nation was in deep collective reflection over the scourge of gender-based violence and femicide. "The murders of Uyinene Mrwetyana and Leighandre Jegels highlighted the plight of many women in our country who are violated daily." He added that "while Uyinene and Leighandre’s cases received national and international attention, thousands of working class and poor women in both our urban centres and rural areas suffer daily in the hands of men, some being their partners. Their cases do not receive the necessary attention that they deserve. They are the silent, and silenced majority," Makhanya stressed.

Safety is a birth right for every woman. While the lecture was focused on the socio-economic development of women since 1994, Makhanya said that it would be unscientific to ignore what was happening around us. "Any development in society, and intellectual reflections related thereto, must be anchored on the lived experiences of those affected by events in that society," he said. In its critique of the NDP, the Commission for Gender Equality argues that the NDP needs gender disaggregated data to emphasise the crisis proportions that gender-based violence has taken on in South Africa, and dealing with this violence should be prioritised for intervention.

Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu

To address the lecture, Minister in the Presidency, Jackson Mthembu, said that he was pleased to deliver the fifth annual NDP lecture on the 25th anniversary of freedom and democracy in South Africa. "This lecture is at an opportune time for us to assess progress since 1994 and the impact of the NDP; to identify areas that need focus and action towards advancing us to the prosperous South Africa we all espouse," said Mthembu.

Mthembu concurred with Makhanya that the theme of the lecture was indeed extremely significant, and said that the theme compelled us to assess progress made in the emancipation of women and girls from all forms of discrimination and the deeply embedded systems of patriarchy, adding that "it also provides us with opportunity to assess how far we have come in dealing with the triple oppression of black women in particular who have for centuries been oppressed as a result of their race, their class and their gender due to our history of the discrimination against black people and their exploitation in South Africa."

Mthembu emphasised that the theme of the lecture boldly directed us to confront the many contradictions facing women and girls living in South Africa. Post-1994 South Africa is lauded for having one of the most progressive Constitutions in the world, in which women’s rights are linked to their socio-economic rights.

Mthembu stressed that women must feel safe and liberated to play an active role as equal counterparts in the growth and development of our nation. "Yet we live in a society where the opposite is true. We live in an antithesis of the society we envision, where women are not safe in the workplace, in the streets, in the post office, in their communities and in their own homes. Women and girls, who are 52% of our population, experience every day the brutality of exploitation, violence and violations of their most basic human rights," he said.

He further explained that the core priorities of the NDP are to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality and unemployment through inclusive economic growth, build human capabilities so that people can lead lives they value, enhance the capacity of the state and promote leadership and active citizenship throughout society. He further added that while not conceived with an explicit gender perspective, the NDP includes many aspects and proposals that promote the transformation of the socio-economic lives of women.

"All government interventions take guidance from and contribute towards the attainment of the goals of the NDP Vision 2030," said Mthembu. Noting that since we have ten years left to achieve Vision 2030, to meet its targets, the government has adopted the spirit of Khawuleza, which seeks to ensure that we achieve its goals expeditiously.

Unisa stands ready to collaborate with the government

Makhanya said that Unisa stands ready to collaborate with the government to assist the country in reaching its potential. "Through our various research centres and institutes, we can add to the work that institutions of the government such as Statistics South Africa are doing," he concluded.

* By Tshimangadzo Mphaphuli, Acting Editor: Internal Communication, Department of Institutional Advancement

Publish date: 2019/10/08