Speech by Bantu Holomisa, MP at a public meeting to Welcome former ANC councillors to the UDM; Solomon Mahlangu Hall, Khayelitsha, Cape Town (24 February 2007)

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It's been a long time since I've addressed a public meeting such as this. In general in the past two years most politicians have been sidelined in the public consciousness by two people; ANC Deputy President Jacob Zuma's corruption trial and President Thabo Mbeki and the battle to choose his successor. This has been a problem, you'll agree with me, for those people who love this country.

This two-leader situation has further aggravated by the infighting at Local Government level, where ANC councillors are defining themselves as either pro-Zuma or pro-Mbeki. This infighting has led to a lack of delivery. This, among other reasons, influenced us as the fourth largest political party in this country with a sizable constituency, when we consulted with other parties following the Local Government elections of 2006, so that our voices could be heard in the decision-making processes in Cape Town. When the infighting between the Rasool camp and the Nculu/Skwatsha camp was becoming public, the voters themselves responded by not giving the ANC the support they gave them in previous years.

The UDM and other political parties, decided to form a coalition of smaller parties with a view to bargaining with the ANC and DA to form a government in Cape Town. As it is publicly known, the ANC was obsessed with forming a government with the ID. Indeed, the ANC leadership in the Western Cape only approached the UDM a day before the council met to vote on the position of mayor. They made it clear that they had already made an agreement with the ID, and could accommodate our members only at SALGA level, while on the other hand the coalition of small parties had already been assured by the DA that they would have a say at the highest level of the City government; 5 positions at executive level, the Speaker and Deputy Mayor. The coalition thus opted for the DA proposal because that power-sharing looked far better for the interests of our voters than the one offered by the ANC and ID.

There is an emerging consensus that the present City government is doing well as compared to its predecessor. Time will tell how far they have succeeded in delivering when their term ends. In particular the voters of the Western Cape and the nation will be interested in seeing that a coalition government can do better than the usual one-party dominated Local Governments. Both the ANC and DA have had such governments here in Cape Town and the scorecards for them have not always been rosy. These squatter camps next to the highway that has been here since 1980s but no previous Local Government has succeeded in uplifting the plight of these people. The real test will be to what extent the new coalition government can distinguish itself in this regard.

It is worth noting however that when we formed this alliance with the DA, the ANC who often holds itself forward as the home of non-racialism were the first party to ask the UDM why we were working with smaller parties and so-called "white" parties. The irony was that at the very same time they had already formed similar power-sharing governments in other Western Cape towns with the DA.

This strange racial hypocrisy of some in the ANC is always remarkable to us. They accuse us of collaborating with white parties, but they are the ones who invited the carcass of the National Party into their bed and who introduced floor-crossing to consummate their marriage with the party of Apartheid.

Today we are gathered here to welcome new members to the UDM, mainly former councillors of the ANC and their followers who have been caught in the crossfire of the ANC's infighting. What I like about your decision is that you did not just hastily run to another party, but you have taken your time and considered what parties exist on the political landscape and would provide you with the best political home. This is a considered decision and not the desperate actions of people on the eve of an election trying to secure a candidates list position at all costs.

You will recall that all of them were left out of the ANC lists for Local Government elections by the camp controlling the process because they were accused of being in a certain other camp. In those elections these ladies and gentlemen opted to stand as independents. We all know the results; they didn't succeed as independent candidates, but they must have learned the lesson that under the current electoral system it will always prove to be difficult to stand against the ANC, especially in black areas where the polling stations are manned by Cosatu affiliates. In other democracies all political parties have a say in the decision-making processes of the IEC.

They are joining us to reinforce our campaigns, including our campaign for the transformation of the IEC. By joining us they help us to consolidate the position we have established in this region and province and assist us in making further inroads in the future.

They are also joining other South Africans who understand and who participated in the Struggle for freeing our country from Apartheid, hence the policies of the UDM calls for strategies by the state to address the imbalances, backlogs and inequalities of the past.

To them we say: You are joining a party whose economic policy is THE STATE MUST DO MORE, so as to integrate our society and place all South Africans on an equal economic footing. You are joining a political party which has earned recognition among many South Africans, including the present government for our sterling contribution on policy issues and nation-building. As a result the UDM is represented at national Cabinet level, by Professor Kganyago - UDM Deputy President. So you can be assured that you are not joining a political party that is negative about South Africa. What we are proud of in the UDM is that we like our space and guard it so that we are in a position to express our views freely and independently.

This attitude has sustained us in the last nine years, and accordingly in September this year the UDM will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary and the UDM Western Cape will be expected to bring more branches to the national celebrations. A detailed programme for the celebrations will be released after our NEC meeting of 9 and 10 March 2007. A discussion document is going to be published soon that will culminate at the 10th Anniversary celebrations in a roadmap for the way forward.

When we first participated in the 1999 elections, we were almost 18 months old, and in Parliament we were the 7th largest party. After the 2004 elections we had risen to the 4th largest party in Parliament. With the reinforcement we are receiving from you today, and other reinforcements in other provinces between now and 2009, I cannot see why we can't be the Official Opposition after the next election. I submit that it is only then that perhaps this Government will come to their senses on certain topics, when the Official Opposition is reflective of the demographics of the country, when they can no longer ignore the Official Opposition on the grounds that they represent only a racial minority. Currently, even on those occasions when the Official Opposition raises good points, the ANC ignores them or simply plays the race card. Given the current state of affairs, I'm sure there is a huge floating vote up for grabs. All we need to do is pull up our socks and work hard. The UDM has survived all these years through many hardships and often grew by mere word-of-mouth and the tireless work of people on the ground, and not with the aid of tens of millions of rands of taxpayer money and dodgy donations.

You are joining the UDM at a time when the nation is debating major issues such as the continuous poverty, unemployment, crime, racism and HIV/AIDS. You are also joining us when there seems to be an emerging consensus that we need to intensify national unity and define commonly accepted goals as a nation in our attempts to address these issues. The Parliament and the President and his Executive are currently working on a plan to manage how we debate these issues in a manner that doesn't further divide us as a nation.

I am glad that the UDM could have contributed to the idea of such an initiative. It is a further indication of the UDM's willingness to be a force for good and not just a mere opposition party that opposes anything that moves.

I thank you.

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