South Africa is a society undergoing rapid economic, political and social transformation and policy makers have recognized the need to study emerging patterns of socio-economic mobility, how South Africans have coped with these various changes and how they have been helped by new policies. Most developed countries and a growing number of developing countries use national panel surveys to try to answer these questions. In 2005 the Presidency embarked on the process of conceptualizing and commissioning South Africa's first national panel survey, the National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS). In early 2006, the Presidency announced a tender to set up and run the first wave of NIDS. The Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit (SALDRU) responded to this tender on behalf of the University of Cape Town and was delighted to be successful.