The challenges facing South Africa as we approach the New Millennium presented by Mr Bantu Holomisa, UDM Co-leader, at the South African Institute of Race Relations, Johannesburg (10 December 1997)

In the letter of invitation which I received from the Institute of Race Relations, it is stated that the United Democratic Movement (UDM) is attracting much media attention.

The UDM on the other hand feels that scant attention is paid to its activities by the media, so it is a matter of debate as to whether we enjoy any sufficient media coverage or not. However, what is important to us is the reasons of our existence or the process which led to the formation of the UDM.

The process which led to the first 1994 April democratic elections in the history of South Africa was initiated to bring about freedom to the people of South Africa. Indeed the first democratic government was unveiled to assume its task of continuing with the democratisation process of state institutions, above all to bring about qualitative change and particularly improving the lives of the poor.

The UDM is ready to measure to current and future challenges facing South Africa, as we approach the 21 Century.

We embrace the challenge with passion and alacrity the practical demands of rebuilding our severely divided society with unprecedented vigour.

We will set free the creative power inherent in our diversity, and will co-operate with all stake-holders to ensure a quality of life and freedom for every citizen, based on good governance and civil order, towards being a winning nation.

The UDM presently is for obvious reasons not represented at parliament. This does not necessarily mean that our primarily aim is to contest the 1999 elections and be part and parcel of other political parties in parliament without any broader vision and sense of purpose.

We clearly see ourselves playing an effective role outside and inside parliament if ever we gets sufficient seats in 1999 elections. The UDM programme of action is geared towards the achievement of just social outcome. In dealing with:
civil order;

We are currently involved in the process of designing specific policy positions, what the UDM have contrary to what is said, is broader policy framework or principles.

Can the current political parties stand to the current and future challenges?

The parliamentary experience/or observations such as:
the inability of minority parties to exert pressure and hold the executive to account;
the majority party using its numeric strength to dismiss constructive views from other parties;
the past activities of parties in parliament being used by the majority party to weaken its opposition during policy-making process with some of the issues with no direct connection on what is being deliberated upon;

These are some of the factors, which had weakened the current political parties in terms of playing effective opposition role. It is against this background that the UDM has a role to play and to fill this gap and unite the country by consolidating and defending this hard won fledgling democracy as we move towards the 21 Century and positioning ourselves in dealing with the unforeseen challenges of the future and building together a just society for all.

The role of civil society in addressing these challenges should not be undermined.

The non-government sector in South Africa has played an important role in making sure that Apartheid as government policy fails.

This sector has played an important role in capacitating our communities through various means, in the form of training, poverty reduction programmes, particularly in the rural areas, providing support for small and medium enterprises for the disadvantaged sector of our communities, adult basic education to combat illiteracy.

The South African Institute of Race Relations with other similar minded NGOs has in the past and I believe still made education a priority by recognising its importance as a liberating tool. The fact that these institutions granted scholarships and bursaries to the needy bears testimony to this commitment of uplifting our communities.

It clear that the government alone cannot transform our society without the active involvement of the Non-governmental Institutions. The fact that NGOs by their nature are suppose to be apolitical they are strategically placed to intervene on behalf of citizens, especially when the government is inclined to abuse its political power in pursuance of sectional/ or individual interests.

The civil society can effectively play its role by supplementing oppositional parties in government. This can be achieved by being public watchdogs or whistle blowers, especially when acts of corruption are detected. However, we do acknowledge the limitations which the NGOs are faced with in carrying out their mandate, precisely that the funding environment had dried up.

The future direction of South Africa is already mapped by the ANC through RDP initially which was later abandoned and replaced by GEAR as government normative policy document, it sets out in no uncertain terms as to what the ANC hopes to achieve in a given period from job creation to provision of infrastructure.

Today teachers who are supposed to be building the nation are to be retrenched. So compare the objectives of GEAR with what is happening now. Is it more jobs or speedy retrenchments of the people whom should be benefiting from the new dispensation?

Judge for yourselves…

In conclusion I wish to take this opportunity to thank the Institute of Race Relations for inviting me and the audience.

Bantu Holomisa
UDM Co-leader

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