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OR Tambo Debate series

South Africa’s National Development Plan (NDP) was adopted by Cabinet in October 2012. Despite broad support for the NDP, there remain ideological disputes on core issues such as economic drivers, inclusive growth and the approach to development. If the NDP is to become a reality, extensive debate on unfolding implementation efforts is required to operationalise the vision to contextual realities and ensure that all social stakeholders are mobilised to achieve outcomes.

Given this challenge, the purpose of this Debate Series, which focuses on implementing the NDP, is to consider the interaction between the vision as stated and its institutionalised operation. Such dialogue aims to help shift entrenched positions, break frames and enable new perspectives and implementation solutions to emerge. In particular, the debates are intended to explore the implementation viability of the NDP by understanding the implications of the implicit policy choices, sector by sector.

This series of public policy and technical debates between stakeholders – government, civil society, private sector, unions and citizens – which explores options (and constraints) for implementation is an important contribution towards forging a social contract between the state and the wider society.


The debates are titled the OR Tambo Debate Series and were initially launched by the Wits School of Governance in partnership with the Oliver & Adelaide Tambo Foundation to pay tribute to OR Tambo’s attributes as a social justice advocate, a strategic thinker and a formidable debater. The partnership has since expanded to include the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) within the Presidency. As part of the expanded collaboration and partnership, the series has grown into not just public debates, but a series of related round tables and then more focused and in-depth research projects to support evidence based policy development. The UNDP plays a crucial role in providing technical knowledge and expertise through bringing international best practice perspectives, as well as funding for the series. The DPME plays a crucial role in ensuring that recommendations and other outcomes of the series are adequately considered in policy making circles of Government through the key role it plays in monitoring and evaluating the roll out and implementation of the NDP.

Since the launch of the OR Tambo Debate series in July 2014, the series has been a resounding success, and continues to grow from strength to strength, reaching millions through social media as well as the audience in the room. In time, a book will draw together key inputs, papers and debates, and reach a different audience, including academics and students, policy-makers and others. Investing in the debate series by partners, donors and sponsors not only helps encourage the spirit of debate and dialogue in South Africa, but also helps advance the implementation of the NDP in more concrete and practical ways.

View the Youtube OR Tambo Debate series channel