About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

Towards a people-driven RDP

The Reconstruction and Development Programme describes itself as "a people-driven" process, both in the sense of being people-centred (based on the social needs of our people), and in the sense of relying on their energies, aspirations and self-organisation to drive it. It is in this people-driven aspect of the RDP that its most progressive potential lies.

But what, beyond broad slogans does "a people-driven" RDP mean? And why is it so important to stress this theme?

Collectively, as a broad liberation movement we cannot claim yet to have adequately elaborated and developed in practice a people-driven RDP process. We cannot yet claim to be as clear as we should be on this question.

But in the weeks since the April elections, at least a number of things have become clearer.

One critical reason for continuously underlining the people-driven aspect of the RDP is that it draws attention to the centrality of redistribution and restructuring within our programme. There is a continuous chorus about affordability. "The RDP is very noble in its ideals, but where will the resources come from?"The answer in the original RDP document is that the bulk of resources already exists within the government budget, and more broadly within South Africa itself, in both the public and private sector. The RDP is crucially about unleashing and redirecting existing resources, opportunities and assets.

This requires determination from the new democratic government, but it also requires reinforcement from outside of government. As the SACP's discussion document for the November Socialist Conference notes: "Redistribution and reconstruction necessarily imply struggle, and it is struggle that is [too often] being wished-away." Struggle, as the document also notes, is not the prerogative of extra-governmental forces, it is an all-round struggle in and out of government.

SACP general secretary Charles Nqakula, in his speech to the COSATU congress, makes the same basic point more graphically: "we all know that resources don't just redistribute themselves. Money doesn't spontaneously throw itself at the poor. Opportunities are not just going to migrate into the most marginalised rural areas of our country. And that is why, the RDP is a people-driven programme."

Part of our strategic opponents' strategy in the current situation is to place unbearable pressures on those in government. The objective is to undermine the coherence and aims of the RDP. But at a mass-based, popular level we are often guilty of reinforcing these pressures. We all keep asking: When is government going to deliver?

In the words of Nqakula, this "creates enormous pressures on our comrades in government, and it can quickly lead to them taking all kinds of short-cuts - striking deals with the devil, quick-fix schemes that simply cannot be sustained. We certainly need the co-ordination and initiative of government. But unless we organise, struggle and assume responsibility for the RDP ourselves, we will not have an RDP."

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.