Address by the President of the UDM at The Platform for Public Deliberation - After Polokwane: State of the ANC and of the opposition at the University of Johannesburg (31 July 2008)
Ladies and Gentlemen
Thank you for the opportunity to address you today. According to my invitation I’m expected to talk about the challenges facing South African democracy in the midst of increasingly violent talk in the ruling party. I’m also expected to address this gathering on a realigned opposition movement against the ANC in the 2009 general election, as well as the need for electoral reform.
The role of the ANC in leading the struggle for our freedom, assisted by other forces such as the UDF, PAC, Azapo, religious groupings, military government of the then Transkei and a host of international institutions, is well documented.
In addressing you today perhaps I should first establish my credentials, since these days one cannot speak about the ANC’s problems without being labelled a counter-revolutionary.
I was part of a team in the Military Council that governed Transkei, which took a decision to support the liberation movements. That process culminated in us assisting the military wing of the ANC, MK, with training locally and abroad in Uganda during those dark days.
Upon his release, Nelson Mandela did not have a personal protection detail from the ANC, since the relevant MK cadres had not yet returned from exile. Such was the trust which was bestowed upon me and my colleagues that Madiba asked me to provide him with a protection detail, since he did not want to depend on protection offered by the Pretoria Government. We were deeply honoured by this request, and we carried out these orders to the best of our ability until MK could assume this duty.
Indeed as this audience will recall, we also provided sanctuary to the late Chris Hani when De Klerk’s Government wanted to embarrass the ANC during the negotiations by arresting him. So we can say without a shadow of a doubt that we were among the many people who participated in the effort to bring Apartheid to its knees in the early nineties.
This commitment to uplifting the masses of our people informed the formation of the UDM in 1997. In 1999, when we were a mere 18 months old, we gained 14 seats in Parliament. We were on the ascendancy when we got caught up in the floor-crossing political thuggery. At least I can proudly proclaim that we seem to be quite the college for the ruling party, who have poached our members to make the Whips, MECs and Ambassadors!
Nevertheless the UDM has despite these setbacks, continued to have a national footprint, with representation in various provincial legislatures across the country.
The UDM constitution enshrines our vision of providing a political home for all South Africans, which is reflected in the support we draw across the country, from all communities. Our policies (Phase 1, Phase 2), also reflect this commitment to uplifting all South Africans. The over-arching theme of our policies is that the Government must do more. The concept of infrastructure development has been a central part of this policy. As you will know, now infrastructure development has become a buzzword of Government. This just goes to show that valid policy alternatives will eventually be adopted if you campaign hard enough.
Allow me to turn to the topic at hand. When we discuss the state of the nation today, we must acknowledge that what is happening to the ruling party today is not something that we would’ve thought would happen so soon. Yes, we have seen the mother of non-racialism in this country beset with racial politics, tribalism and ethnicity. This infighting has also led to the promotion of anarchy in certain quarters. What should inform these debates is what a South African voter wants: choice and voice. We need to always protect that principle, which has underpinned our image in the world.
When I say that the South Africans want choice and voice I mean:
What went wrong? Why now all of a sudden are people like Judge Albie Sachs, Judge Pius Langa, Judge Moseneke, Judge Yacoob, Bishop Tutu, Barney Pityana and many others – who have impeccable struggle credentials – being dubbed as counter-revolutionaries? These are the people who were part of the intelligentsia, which supported the liberation movement and helped it to achieve the end of Apartheid. Indeed what would inspire an alliance spokesperson to question Bishop Tutu’s sexual orientation, when the latter raised his concerns about the state of the nation?
We can begin to answer these questions when we take note of the rogue business elements, wanted by the law, who went out of their way to finance the youth and future leaders of this country and encouraged them to attack the judiciary and other democratic institutions. That move can never be equated with wisdom. It is the same crowd that financed and promoted tribalism with t-shirts displaying ethnic slogans. Nor can it be correct that this generation of so-called leaders attack the elders, without a sign of being called to order by their party leadership. We are talking about a culture of respect that leaders such as those elected at Polokwane should be cultivating, not undermining because it serves some short-term party political or factional agendas.
I experienced firsthand this culture of hatred and denigration when I left the ANC and launched the UDM. Unfortunately the war talk led to attacks on UDM members, and some even lost their lives because they were dubbed enemies of the revolution. However in 1996 President Nelson Mandela was asked which things he viewed as highlights and lowlights of his first 100 days since the adoption of the new Constitution. This was 8 days after my departure from the ANC and President Mandela confessed that the two things he wished he had handled differently was the matter of Bantu Holomisa and the matter of Sarafina II. Whatever he may have meant, it was too late.
I’m sure President Mbeki will agree with me about this culture of hatred, after his own experience in the run-up to Polokwane, when people from his own party and alliance launched concerted attacks on his dignity.
Thus we saw the public burning of t-shirts bearing his face as well as insinuations about the assassination of Chris Hani. It is interesting to note that the common denominator in these attacks was the SACP; in my case it was their Deputy SG, Jeremy Cronin who authored a defamatory booklet about me, under the title “The Rise and Fall of Holomisa”
The question on everybody’s lips these days is: What does the post-Polokwane leadership of the ANC auger? This is not the ANC that the people used to know, and which many of us supported to topple the Apartheid regime. The last remnants of the ANC of Luthuli, Tambo and Mandela were left in Polokwane.
Indeed, many people are concerned about the violent tone of the discourse now unfolding within the ANC. Comrades are literally stabbing each other at branch meetings, whilst Tripartite Alliance podiums are regularly abused in order to spout threats of violence and death against enemies and perceived enemies of the new ANC leadership.
Part of the problem with the ANC’s infighting is that it has spilled over into the civil service, for example the hoax e-mail scandal involving the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). The flaws in the ANC’s deployment strategy have been exposed, because wherever comrades find themselves now – whether in National Departments, Provincial Government or Municipalities – they are fighting each other because they are taking sides between the different factions. Service delivery is further undermined as a result. This has also affected the institutions of our democracy.
We have all witnessed the lynch mob mentality that has taken hold in the last couple of months, which is laced with greed. It is often said that there will be no change in policy from Mbeki to Zuma, yet why are they fighting, if not about control of the levers of power and access to the resources of the state?
We have witnessed from Khutsong to many other places how the Tripartite Alliance partners have demonstrated their willingness to resort to violence to settle their scores. Many ANC councillors and mayors have found themselves under attack from arsonists and thugs who proudly proclaim their membership of the same Tripartite Alliance.
In debating the state of the nation we must remember that we are a country with an incredibly violent history. This is why the first democratic elections were dubbed the “miracle of 1994” by people all over the globe. So much effort, so many negotiations and constitutional drafting went into the creation of a new dispensation that will address the legacy of that violent past. The entire democratic dispensation was designed to set the framework for a new society where no person needs to resort to violence to resolve conflict.
What was the sudden motivation for this incitement of violence in our townships? Certainly, the poor and working classes have their motivation after years of empty promises. But what was the motivation of the Tripartite Alliance members who were sweeping the crowds up into a violent frenzy? Why were they specifically targeting the Government that they are essentially a part of?
One thing which we can identify as a source for the conflict in the Tripartite Alliance is the issue of the Arms Deal, which has been eating away at the body politic of the ANC like a cancerous tumour.
With all the denials of wrongdoing in the beginning by the Government of Mbeki and Zuma, today the courts of the country have already disposed of several Arms Deal corruption cases involving members of the ruling party, including Messrs Yengeni and Shaik. The last straw for the lynch mob was when the Shaik’s appeal to the Constitutional Court resulted in a ruling that he couldn’t have access to the R34 million confiscated by the state because he had gained it illicitly with the assistance of Jacob Zuma. This ruling has driven the Zuma camp nuts, and hence we hear this war talk and accusations of counter-revolutionary conspiracies being driven so loudly. It is also why they are demanding that no prosecution should proceed against Zuma because they know how embarrassing it would be for them and their leader. Just imagine if he were to go court and plead before the next election, the implications for the ANC’s election campaign would be shattering! His backers have invested so much that they cannot countenance the thought of his not gaining power. This is why we hear this ridiculous talk now of the entire justice process needing to be delayed or subverted to allow somebody to come into power instead of facing the law – it just does not make sense. It seems that we are expected to forget about the rule of law and live according to the law of the jungle. Indeed, South Africa who was seen as a champion of NEPAD and issues of good governance, will be relegated to the bottomless pit of failed African states if the Tripartite Alliance persists with this approach.
It was this same anger that led them to call for the disbandment of the Scorpions.
In another democratic country, with all of this infighting and service delivery failure by the ruling party, it would have been a reason for voters to punish them and change the balance of power. In the case of South Africa the jury is still out; voters will have an opportunity next year to endorse or reject this mess we find ourselves in. Whilst South Africans will be having this opportunity to reflect on the state of the nation, one must not expect a major paradigm shift, especially in this country where instead of creating jobs the ANC Government has been very clever about creating a culture of dependence.
They have institutionalised the culture of patronage. We have witnessed in the last two elections how people were blackmailed and told that a failure to vote for the ANC will mean that they won’t get houses or social grants anymore.
It is for these reasons that the ruling alliance is vehemently opposed to changing the electoral system to include constituencies, because it wants control over the people and over the so-called lawmakers. Similarly, they would resist giving South African voters the right to directly elect the President of their choice, as is the common practice in most democracies across the continent and the world in general.
A related topic – which the ruling alliance has flatly refused to cooperate on – is the question of regulating party political funding. Again the politics of blackmail plays a role because big business understands that the message from the ruling party is: If you don’t fund us, you won’t get the major contracts and tenders.
It is therefore clear that the entire electoral system requires a revamp to ensure that the multi-party democracy spoken of in our Constitution is actually exercised in practice.
The political parties have formed a Multi-Party Forum, with a steering committee, which I am chairing, that has been meeting regularly to discuss our concerns and formulate a common approach on electoral reform. In turn we have taken these concerns to the IEC and have been engaging them. But I must say that it is a very difficult process since one often feels when talking to some of the people in the IEC that you are being resisted by an extension of the ruling party.
Many parties like the UDM, PAC and IFP have publicly questioned why the IEC makes use of Department of Education staff, whilst many of them are members of SADTU, a COSATU affiliate that encourages every member to vote for the ANC. Where is the fairness in that?
Parties have also asked the IEC to explain exactly what the role of National Intelligence Agency (NIA) is in the holding of elections, especially their sticking their noses into the awarding of IEC tenders related to election management. We have not received an explanation yet. Neither have we received any satisfactory answer regarding the management of Information Technology in the electoral process. Yes we are concerned, because we happen to be aware that NIA has emulated the old Apartheid system of forming front companies to pursue their own objectives. It is well-known that NIA is manned by comrades, many of whom, who believe that they should serve the interests of the ANC before all else.
The parties that form part of the MPF have agreed that in the short-term, for the coming election, we will assist each other in fielding party agents. We have also formed a task team to look into the IT and data-capturing systems being used by the IEC during the electoral process. For greater detail regarding the issues that the MPF has been discussing internally and with the IEC I attach a document with our Short and Long-Term Goals.
The South African voting public have been calling for a stronger opposition or even a new opposition movement. Scattered as we may appear, the opposition parties in this country have played a big role. Today we wouldn’t be talking of the former Chief Whip of the ruling party, the former Deputy President of the country, and many others, who have been embroiled in the Arms Deal scandal, had it not been for the efforts of the opposition parties. Thanks to the PAC’s former MP, who first exposed this scandal, and the concerted effort of the opposition and media, the truth began to emerge. Many instances of Government corruption that was exposed by the opposition parties have led to the removal from office and conviction of the guilty persons.
The immediate challenge facing the opposition parties as they are composed now, is to ensure that the ANC does not get a two-thirds majority. I am convinced that we will succeed in this objective because the ANC got that two-thirds majority in 2001 in the first place through floor-crossing. The subsequent drain on the opposition’s human and financial resources ensured that the ANC could sustain that artificial majority through the next election campaign.
If we had the time we would be able to seriously look at the possibility of alliances or a new movement, but the next elections are upon us. It would be unwise to rush into such a venture. Certainly, my impression from discussion with other political leaders and stakeholders, is that this is not something that anybody would pursue simply for short-term gain, or purely in order to gang up against the ANC. Any realistic alliance or new movement would have to be based upon a genuine realignment, not just a marriage of convenience.
Having said that, one cannot dispute the reality of post-electoral coalitions. We have a very good example of such a coalition governing the city of Cape Town. I can assure you that it has been a very fruitful working relationship that we as partners have developed in that municipality. We have demonstrated the ability to find common ground in terms of policy and to govern jointly. Indeed, we are justifiably proud of the success of that municipality, and it is well known as one of the more stable and successful metros.
It is possible to consider the best interests of the voters after an election, when one is able to see what their preferences are. Thus for instance the ANC is in power today in KwaZulu Natal because the UDM supported them in the formation of a Government after the last election. At that time it was apparent to us that the majority of voters in that province wanted an ANC Government. Just like the majority of Cape Town voters emphatically voted the ANC out after the last election, and we respected their wishes.
This ongoing debate on a realignment of the political landscape, not just among the opposition, but across the spectrum, is important. In the long-term our democracy requires the emergence of two strong political movements and a more equal balance of power. The lifeblood of democracy is the presence in Parliament of a realistic alternative to whichever party is ruling. It ensures that the needs of the voters are never forgotten and prevents the arrogance of power that has become such a feature of our politics these days.
The ANC is fond of labelling the DA as former oppressors, whilst it – the ANC – continues to feed on the carcass of the defunct National Party, and hold many of its leaders close to its bosom. With due respect to the DA, they have allowed a situation to develop where the ANC speaks through the DA when addressing the legacy of the National Party.
This ANC strategy has painted the DA into a tight corner, and they have not succeeded in appealing to voters outside the minority groups.
The current pattern of some opposition groupings in South Africa largely reflects the political and social divides of the Apartheid and struggle days. We visualize a paradigm shift that will focus on the process that will lead to the establishment of an alternative government.
In all our discussions in this debate our point of departure should be the recommitment to the principle of improving the quality of lives of the people of South Africa as a national objective agreed to by all parties during the negotiation process prior to 1994.
There is therefore no denial of the fact whichever party or movement wants to become an alternative ruling party will have to draw the majority of its support from the majority citizens of the country.
Again the question of resources will be a challenge. It cannot be correct that one party will receive money from foreign countries and local big business, in addition to what it receives from Parliament, and the IEC. It is necessary to review our electoral system urgently to correct these imbalances that unjustly favour the ruling alliance.
The challenge is not only for the political parties to talk about the need for a strong alternative. Civil society must also participate in such discussions. They must be reminded that the building of democracy was not merely to put the ANC into power and create a one-party state. As we have seen elsewhere in Africa, the one-party system is a bad idea; it breeds corruption and eventually leads to second and third revolutions. It would be a tragedy if South African civil society were to allow themselves to become embedded with the ruling alliance, and thereby jettisoning their original objective of fighting for the rights of the masses.
If the truth were to be spoken, it was the vanguard actions of civil society that brought Apartheid to its knees, not the barrel of a gun. The question is: For how long will civil society fold their arms whilst they witness what they fought for being hijacked by Johnny-come-lately revolutionaries, with their feet in their mouths and their fingers in the till?
This is why I called in Parliament for a National Convention involving all South Africans, to look at the progress and review the inherent defects in our system since the advent of democracy. It is especially necessary in the field of economy and education to consider whether we are delivering on the promises we made to ourselves leading up to 1994. We need to consider whether the current culture of dependency being fostered by the state will take us out of the backlogs and imbalances caused by the social engineering of the Apartheid regime.
I thank you.
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