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Address by the President of the UDM, Bantu Holomisa at a National Management Committee, MPs and MPLs Meeting, Cape Town  (12/10/1999)


 Since our entry in Parliament, and shortly after the formation of our Party, South Africans of all political persuasions have taken a keen interest in our performance inside and outside Parliament. This special interest is understandable because our very establishment as a party represents a break with the past and it charts a new course in the political arena of South Africa.

 The advent of the new South African freedom dispensation has ushered in new imperatives which will mould a new political culture and determine new choices free from the baggage of the past whether it be prejudices emanating from a severely fractured racist order or divisive ideological antipathy of the struggle era.

 It is with a keen understanding of this historic mission as a party that our political debut has featured the coming together of people from historically diverse backgrounds, even people who had been divided by a vast political chasm of a divided past. The measure of the correctness of our Vision and Mission has been our resounding success at polls where after only 20 months of our existence, with no resources, save a meagre budget of R2 million we were able to put a total of 30 public representatives in the legislative organs of the state both provincially and nationally. This in our view is a clear vindication of our cause and opens the door to a new milieu in the politics of this Country. We survived a vitriolic and often violent opposition to our mere existence and triumphed in a highly competitive and often unfree election. The preponderance of known ruling party supporters in the IEC and its agencies is well documented.

 We pioneered the convergence of people from opposing camps and showed that the new South Africa we are building is a home for all of us.  We withstood the political flack we encountered in breaking this new ground often from people who themselves have been known to headhunt the same people we drew into our midst. The hypocrisy of the ruling party in demonising the UDM for embracing former NP supporters when they themselves have subsequently welcomed them into their ranks is mind-boggling.  This hysteria among the ranks of the ANC rose to crescendo when we announced our strategy for parliamentary co-operation with the Federal Alliance and it betrays a latent racism and political opportunism within that party.  This proves that the ANC is a hostage of the racist past and therefore is not truly committed to transformation. They cannot play a meaningful role in the politics of realignment and the ushering in of a new order. This is the reason we as the UDM rightly claim we represent the future and will provide an alternative government for South Africa as a united and winning nation.  Our party defines itself inter alia in terms of total rejections of racism and the demographics of our executive and parliamentary representation reflect our non-racial culture. We note with interest that this preoccupation with race issues emanates from some individuals who find it convenient to rake up these negative sentiments to justify their own departures from the Party.


 As a new political party which responded to the call of destiny we hit the ground running. We had to formulate policies and devise strategies in a rapidly unfolding political phenomenon, and deal with a myriad of problems which are to be expected in any party especially a new one which has to be innovative and explore new ground. A new political party emerging on the eve of an election would inevitably draw support from a varied background. There are genuine people who are committed to the cause of building a new political home for the future. There are those whose focus was on immediate material rewards as MPís in the legislative structures. Some of these fell by the wayside when their short-term objectives could not be realised. There are those who do not understand the philosophy of our Mission. We have to patiently educate these and show them the guaranteed ultimate success of our cause. Some will resign because they cannot measure up to the challenges and rigours of party-building. On the other hand where resignations have been occasioned by the Partyís own failings, these should be rectified without hesitation.

It must be emphasised that the UDM was not formed for the purpose of participating in the last general election and the forthcoming municipal elections. Its formation is a historical necessity to answer a long-term political need. The road that lies ahead requires that we build capacity in our membership to confront the tasks that lie ahead in the creation of a new South Africa. We must build structures within our movement to equip our cadres politically and empower them to deal with complex political questions. We have to establish specialised structures to equip members to handle constitutional issues. We must recruit and develop economics- and developmental fundis. In short we need to create committees to empower our organisation as a whole to carry out its Mission. Let us understand that the UDM is not just an event. It is not an effervescence that will bubble and subside. It is the culmination of a political process and must be a steward of that process and nurture it to maturity. This is a long road, and social processes do not always have the drama and fanfare that characterised our early days when we were preparing for the elections.

 As we are about to embark on the way forward, let us take stock of ourselves. Let us dispassionately and objectively evaluate ourselves and see whether we are currently equipped to carry out the responsibilities that I have outlined. If in our assessment we have identified weaknesses, let us correct these. If we found strengths let us reinforce them and develop them in our capacity-building exercise at all levels of the Party.


 Our observation during our initial participation in Parliament is that opposition parties operate within a constrained political environment which does not permit open and unrestricted expression because of the limited time slots allocated to smaller parties and the general domineering and manipulative tendencies of the ruling party such as constant and inexplicable changes in Parliamentary agendas. There is a marked shift from parliamentary democracy to a centralised executive decision-making, which reduces Parliament to mere rubber-stamping decisions of the NEC of the ANC. For instance Parliament was supposed to meet this week. The fact that it is not sitting is the result of Cabinetís inability to decide on what legislative business must be brought to Parliament. This observation is confirmed by a number of political pundits as well as some ANC Members of Parliament. This tendency is perpetrated at provincial level by ANC Provincial Executive Committees. Further proof of the degradation of Parliament and its relegation to rubber-stamping executive decisions is the absenteeism of Cabinet Members and the total absence of the President from Parliament when he happens to visit South Africa.

 Let us read the signs clearly and avert a possible catastrophic situation. We are all familiar with the politics of patronage and cabals. The tendency is for the dominant clique around the central executive figure to impose its will on both party, Government, Parliament and ultimately the Country. Dictatorships have a tendency to creep in imperceptibly and are discovered when it is too late to stop them. We must then be vigilant and alert the nation to this degradation of our democracy. There is a disturbing evidence of ganging up by the ruling party to protect those of their kind who are the subject of investigations. Likewise public institutions that are charged with promoting and protecting clean administration are undermined and harassed and discredited e.g. the Public Protector, Heath Commission, and embarrassing remarks by the Minister of Justice about the Constitutional Court.

 We are now positioning ourselves as the parliamentary section of the Party to take appropriate measures to bring to the publicís attention these aberrations and be seen to be taking a firm stand against them. Accordingly we are streamlining our parliamentary machinery to play a proactive role and not only to be vigilant but to tackle these issues head-on in all Parliamentary forums.

 In order for parliamentary representatives and their functionaries to succeed they must be sustained by the Party structures outside Parliament. The Party has a duty to invigorate itself and build structures on the ground which will keep the Party vibrant inside and outside Parliament.

 Our future political success will increasingly rely less on our parliamentary representation than on our material and human resources outside Parliament. To this end we have set the building of a sound resource base as a priority. Deputy President Roelf Meyer has been asked to head a committee whose main mission will be to build our resources to enable us to win the political battle. Because of this new responsibility, from time to time, he will be in and out of Parliament.


 At our last Bosberaad in Benoni you will recall that a decision was taken for the UDM to lead the process of re-alignment as a step towards the establishment of an alternative government for South Africa. Consequently significant steps have been taken to achieve this objective. We have a working relationship with the Federal Alliance who also shares the vision of an alternative government.

 Our colleagues Mr Qokweni and Dr Koornhof are engaged in discussions with other political parties on the same theme. Indications are that opposition parties are willing to explore parameters for possible co-operation. My personal view is that there should be a summit of leaders of all opposition parties in the near future with the view of discussing and defining the nature of the co-operation that could take the process forward. If consensus is reached that a process be begun towards the establishment of an alternative government the debate could be broadened to embrace people outside political party structures in a national convention where endorsement of the need for further consultation could be made. The way forward could be the formation of commissions to explore the way ahead under the auspices of the Convention.

 Transformation is one of the central principles of our National Constitution. Therefore the outcome of any convention must place transformation high on the national agenda. Poverty pervades our society and it is spreading among all racial communities. This is assuming National Crisis dimensions which dictate that meaningful measures be taken to arrest this trend.

 At the end of this meeting I believe we shall all fully understand our respective roles. We must then position ourselves to engage our tasks with renewed vigour and create a new momentum that will propel our party to its ultimate destination. We will succeed only if we are truly committed to our principles, Vision and Mission.


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