Address by the President of the United Democratic Movement at the UDM Western Cape Provincial Congress at th Lentegeur Community Centre (Cape Town) (24 April 2008)

Ladies and Gentleman

We are meeting here once again to fulfil the obligation that the UDM Constitution places on us to gather regularly to elect provincial leaders, review the progress we have made and to consider what challenges are facing the UDM in this province. In so doing, we also need to consider the performance of the outgoing leadership, whether they have led this structure by example.

However, even in our analysis of the past year, our focus is on moving forward. We have to come up with a leadership here which will also prepare for the growth of the party between now and next year’s elections.

The challenge for the UDM is that we will once more have to build many of our structures from scratch. As you know, because of the floor-crossing, we have lost people. Some of them were strong leaders who were specifically targeted by the government and now they are MECs, whips and ambassadors today. Floor-crossing will soon be a thing of the past and we have a responsibility to build this party to be where it should have been by now, had it not been for floor-crossing.

Another matter that I feel compelled to remind you of is that the UDM is not a party of one particular population group. I’m concerned when I look at the overall representation of your branches here today, that you do not have branches in the traditionally white and coloured suburbs. In fact, in this province, don’t fool yourselves, the people from the White and the Coloured communities constitute the majority, Africans are a minority here. I appeal to you to ensure that you stay true to the Vision of the UDM, which is to be a political home for all, and therefore you must recruit people from all areas and groups.

Those who are to be elected here today, should also understand that the fact they are running the structures in the run-up to the elections does not mean that they will automatically be number one or two on the candidate lists. In fact, you know that our policy – when it comes to drawing up candidate lists – has always been to select the very best people for that particular job. That is why the ANC has often targeted these people and they are today MECs and ambassadors. Our first concern with candidate lists must be to select people who have the very specific skills to represent the interests of our voters in Parliament and the legislatures. Just like we today we will select people with the specific skills to represent the interests of the party in running our provincial structure.

We are holding this congress at a time when our country is faced with serious challenges. There is an urgent need for answers on pertinent questions, such as food prices, Eskom, and the ruling party’s madness of disbanding the Scorpions on the grounds that the unit targets their leaders.

If they don’t abuse taxpayer money the Scorpions won’t bother them. But they need to understand that if they abuse taxpayer money, the Scorpions will ask questions. They have to learn that this is the reality of government administration. If this other faction is serious about disbanding the Scorpions, they must wait for the next election to get a mandate for this action. To expect Mbeki to dent what is left of his legacy is preposterous. They must dent their own legacies if they want to do that. The structures in this province must go from door to door and get people’s signatures for the petition we have begun. Those petitions will help us when we debate this matter in Parliament and also in court, if indeed there is a need to follow the legal route.

As far as the food security issue is concerned we have recognise that this food crisis has become a global issue today. It also shows that government’s economic policies have been designed in such a way that our economy cannot absorb external shocks. Countries like Brazil, India, China, France, and USA, have been subsidising their farmers for years, and they continue to do that. The ruling party, on the other hand, have been playing to the international gallery and withdrew the subsidies for our farmers. Now India and Brazil are saying they will no longer export rice to the outside world because of local demand and to address their local food crisis. Whereas here in SA the government is now uncertain what to do because they never assisted our farming communities. How will the poor feed themselves when food prices keep spiralling upward?

It is not going to help to cry about what is done, we need to look at solutions. The government has agreed to the ANC request for an electricity summit. Today we are calling on them to combine that summit with a food crisis summit so that all the stakeholders in our society can come together and plot a way forward.

The question of the interest rates in this country, which are raised in tandem with inflation, needs a thorough debate. The 40 million South Africans that were locked out the economy by Apartheid, are now being locked out again by high interest rates. Tito Mboweni and Trevor Manuel need to understand that those 40 million South Africans are not fully participating in the economy and the current inflation-target policy is actively perpetuating their exclusion from the economy. They must realise this is not a first world economy, and they cannot simply apply first world “remedies”.

The instruments and measures Mboweni uses – especially with regards to inflation – must be reviewed and improved upon.

Finally, I am appealing to our structures to go to the voters and warn them against the lies of the tripartite alliance that pretends it isn’t in power whenever some unpleasantness of their policies is exposed. Then they organise marches against government and pretend to care about how government’s policies are affecting the people. But they are the ruling party. They have just returned from Polekwane where they have endorsed once more all the policies that this government is implementing. They must stop this pretence of caring when they are responsible for drafting and repeatedly endorsing the policies that have created the electricity and food crisis.

In conclusion, I want to thank the outgoing provincial leadership for their cooperation with national office, and I hope we will have a fruitful relationship with the new leadership.

Thank you.

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