The National Development Plan (NDP) is South Africa’s most recent economic plan. Its goal is to reduce poverty and inequality by the year 2030. The uniqueness of the NDP lies in its focus on harnessing the energies of all South Africans for its implementation. Regardless of its pro-development proposals, it has been met with scepticism by political stakeholders – namely, political parties and trade unions.
The support of political stakeholders is essential to the plan’s implementation as they are the gatekeepers for policy implementation. Also, these stakeholders represent the interests of their constituents. Without their support and participation, constituent support will be difficult to garner. Additionally, a communication plan, strategy, or framework geared at acquiring this support was not developed. The goal of this study was therefore to present a framework of communication principles for the National Development Plan. This framework would serve as a guide for government communication in the South African context. Six principles were identified:
1. Know your stakeholders
2. Address ideological conflicts 3. Set standards for how government should communicate
4. Decide on the narrative and commit to it
5. Craft leadership image
6. Create alignment
The researcher arrived at these principles by conducting a discourse analysis (supplemented by thematic and summative content analysis) of the political discourse surrounding the NDP. Elements of the Two-Way Symmetrical Model (Dozier, Grunig & Grunig, 1995; Skinner, Mersham & Benecke, 2013; Van Vuuren, 2014) and the Arena Model of Reputation (Aula & Mantere, 2008:62) were included in the framework.
The data consisted of transcripts of Parliament Hansards, newspaper articles, and semi-structured interviews with political representatives from the African National Congress (ANC), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU).
This study had several interesting findings. The research reflects the perceived importance of strategic communication as a tool for imbedding democracy and promoting democratic rule. Both of which are important for South Africa as a new democracy. The framework presented provides a starting-point for this process. Additionally, it encourages active citizenry and facilitates in the NDP’s implementation process.