A crucial moment in South Africa’s transition to democracy was the signing of the Laboria Minute in 1990 between unions, employers and government where it was agreed that no laws on labour market issues would be passed without the agreement of all three social partners. This led to the establishment of the National Economic Forum (NEF) in 1992 and its merging with the National Manpower Commission (NMC) to create South Africa’s premier social dialogue institution, the National Economic Development and Labour Council (NEDLAC). In many ways the Laboria Minute was to pre-figure the political negotiations that led to South Africa’s first democratic elections in April 1994.
NEDLAC is distinctive as a peak-level social dialogue institution in that it includes not just labour market issues but also trade and industrial policy, monetary and fiscal policy as well as developmental issues. The traditional tripartite structure was also broadened to include community organisations.
In 2013 the authors were appointed to undertake an External Review to recommend ways of repositioning NEDLAC. We interviewed representatives from all four of the constituencies and wrote up a report. Subsequently we presented the report separately to all four constituencies and then incorporated their feedback into the review again before finalising our recommendations.