Futile summit by opposition parties statement issued by Roelf Meyer (24 November 1997)

Over the recent past, the idea of closer co-operation between opposition parties in our country, has been mooted a couple of times. This idea has to be exposed for the futile exercise in hopelessness it essentially is now that the NP has announced plans to hold such a summit early next year. These ‘plans’ are essentially similar to proposals the DP has made earlier and can be interpreted either as a concerted effort by the two parties to get such a summit off the ground, or a hijacking by the NP of a DP initiative.

Fact is that efforts on these lines will be futile if the crucial issue, namely a restructuring of our politics, is not addressed. The bigger picture is that South African parliamentary politics is presently being conducted along racial lines, with the essentially ‘white’ parties in no position to threaten the majority, essentially ‘black’ party, notwithstanding attempts by the ‘white’ parties to rearrange themselves. These efforts will rather increase the racial polarisation by being interpreted as a ganging up against the ANC, even if attempts to draw in the IFP, which is regarded as a Zulu traditional niche party, is successful.

These attempts will be futile in changing the present numbers game in our politics. Without successfully increasing their support bases, the combined support of the parliamentary opposition parties will not even reach 25% according to recent polling figures. This is an even more emasculated opposition than at present.

The only viable answer is to restructure the politics out of the present racial rut and present South Africans from all communities with political parties that appeal on grounds of their values, visions and policies rather than the racial ticket. This means that parties need to shed the image and baggage that presently prevent members from other communities to vote for them. The NP and DP, for example, will never in their present forms be able to attract meaningful black support. This is the political reality around which the NP and DP are conducting their futile egg-dances. Without making this paradigm shift, they are destined to become withering niche parties with nothing more than curiosity value.

The parties will therefore have to reinvent themselves. The NP cannot expect black support for itself as a party or its idea of an opposition summit while clamouring for consolidation of its (essentially white) support base.

The UDM was born as a result of the determination to present to South Africans a party free from historical baggage, with sound core values and well-grounded policy positions suited to the needs of the real South Africa. It has already proved itself by attracting support from literary all communities in the country. It is at present the only party able to draw substantial support in ANC strongholds, as illustrated by rallies in the Eastern Cape, where 20 000 supporters attended, the North West Province, Mpumalanga and the Northern Province. While the DP and NP are busy rearranging the deckchairs on their political Titanic, the UDM is building a substantial party on its vision of a party for all South Africans, aiming at making South Africa a winning nation to the benefit of all her people.

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