Address by the (UDM President at the Launch of the UDM 2009 Election Campaign (8 October 2008)
Ladies and Gentlemen
The United Democratic Movement (UDM) launches its election campaign today. It is the first step in our 2009 election strategy, as ratified by the UDM National Executive Committee this past weekend.
This is a pivotal time in the history of our country. Fifteen years into democracy we are witnessing the dangers of one-party dominance.
The ANC has become arrogant in power. Vital decisions – such as the removal of the head of state – are casually taken by a few dozen people in Luthuli House. They don’t even pause to consult the nation.
The question of trust will play a big role in the coming election, because of the ruling party’s behaviour over the past 15 years in Government. Voters have legitimate grounds for distrusting the ANC when it comes knocking with election pledges, because the past decade is littered with the husks of their empty promises.
The UDM’s election campaign will be underpinned by themes of inclusiveness, consultation and accountability. These three simple concepts distinguish our approach to governing from that of the ruling party. The ANC has forgotten these fundamental notions of democracy.
In the first place South Africans will know that a vote for the UDM is a vote in support of these democratic values that underpin our constitution and the spirit of our political transformation.
The UDM was launched eleven years ago after careful consultation with people from all demographics across the country. Our Mission Statement, as enshrined in our founding document, is to provide a political home to all South Africans, united in our diversity.
The truth is that South Africans are crying out for certainty and service delivery. The ANC’s infighting has cascaded throughout all the levels of Government, causing widespread confusion and further crippling service delivery.
There is a terminal lack of leadership and decisiveness in many departments. Take for instance the countless failures in the Department of Health; those aren’t a question of policy or funding so much, but about a lack of political will.
The UDM is reaching out to all South Africans today with a message of hope; the better future that you long for is within your grasp. It is vital that you register as a voter and vote – and we have an announcement that will make joining our party easier for people. By voting you remind the politicians it is you they serve. It is pivotal, now more than ever, that all of us participate more actively in this democracy.
It is time to reverse the political culture of an elite prescribing to the majority. The ANC has become an exclusive club, where small groups battle it out for access to state resources for their own benefit, not yours. A new faction is eager to board the gravy train; election 2009 is where you the voter can stop that gravy train from leaving the station.
Now is not the time to be despondent, or become sidetracked by the politics of thuggery and infighting. But it is necessary for the majority of voters to ask themselves: can we honestly trust the ‘new’ ANC, or a breakaway party for that matter, to rise above their factional, inward-looking and self-serving preoccupations?
Now is the time to remind the politicians that they serve you the voters, not the other way around.
Whilst there are many pressing issues facing us as a nation, we have chosen to highlight the ‘big five’ today. In due course, when the poll date is announced, we will launch a comprehensive election manifesto that addresses all the major issues.
The big five issues are as follows:
Allow me to briefly address each now.
The number one issue – as voters will remind us if we listen – is without a doubt the economy. Unemployment and poverty continue to define the daily lives of millions of South Africans, even though this country is wealthy in terms of natural and human resources.
The UDM endorses the idea expressed by John F Kennedy when he said that a rising tide lifts all boats; meaning that a growing economy will benefit all. Instead of expanding the overall wealth and prosperity of the country, the ruling party has succeeded only in partly redistributing the existing wealth.
We need a rising tide - a growing economy - and the UDM is convinced that such a goal is well within this country’s reach. A Marshall Plan type of government-led stimulation of the economy is required.
The UDM is specifically concerned about the plight of the millions of young people in this country who leave school and tertiary institutions full of enthusiasm to contribute to their country, only to discover that there is no place for them in the labour market. These millions of young people are a huge potential force for economic growth but they are being left behind. The current government is creating another ‘lost generation’.
There are two immediate steps that can be taken to stimulate the economy whilst opening up the doors of opportunity for our young people. Firstly, it is a fact that at the same time that many eager and qualified young people struggle to find employment, we have ridiculously high vacancy rates across all levels of Government. A UDM Government would not allow this governance failure of the ANC to continue. We will throw the doors of opportunity wide open; access will depend on your potential and ability, not whether you belong to a certain political party or faction in that party.
Secondly, the government must radically simplify the bureaucracy hampering entrepreneurship, whilst expanding the incentives and support for the establishment of small businesses. A certain Mr Rupert started his massive business empire as an enthusiastic young man in a garage. The business giants of tomorrow, the ones who create the rising economic tide that will benefit us all, are walking our streets frustrated and often unemployed. They only need support, mentorship and a little seed financing.
Can you trust the ‘new’ or the ‘old’ ANC to deliver real improvements in job creation when they have jointly failed to do so for 15 years running?
You can trust the UDM because when Government finally adopted our economic policy proposal of infrastructure development it has become the only success in its otherwise futile efforts to create jobs.
The second of the ‘big five’ issues is crime. The fear of assault, robbery, rape and murder pervades our country. There is no South African who has not been touched by the actions of criminals who strike with impunity in our streets and homes. This is yet another issue where political will and decisive leadership has been sadly lacking; therefore the first step a UDM Government would take is to appoint a super-ministry of crime prevention with a view to ensure integrated and assertive responses to crime. The human and physical resource crises faced by the criminal justice departments require a determined overhaul of the entire system.
Can you trust the ANC to deal with crime when their response until now has been to repress the crime statistics and bicker when they are forced to release them? Can you trust the ANC to deal decisively with criminals when it has a solid track record of attacking the courts and authorities whenever one of its leaders is caught on the wrong side of the law?
You can trust the UDM to uphold the rule of law, as our campaign this year to save the Scorpions proves.
The third of the ‘big five’ issues for this election is the question of education. Despite a very large budget our education system is in serious trouble. Our children are not getting the basic education they deserve, leaving them ill-equipped to find employment. Our teachers are not paid what they are worth. Our curriculum is a minefield of ever-changing policies that have left most role-players confused and demoralised. Our tertiary education institutions do not provide fair access to deserving students, suffer from high dropout rates, and do not produce enough graduates who can fill the skills shortages in the economy.
Can you trust the ANC to deliver quality education when they have somersaulted so many times on policy that not even they know where they are heading? Indeed, can you trust them when a string of ANC Education Ministers have made promises, such as addressing illiteracy and numeracy, and each one has failed spectacularly?
You can trust the UDM to apply the necessary political will to translate the large education budget into real education, because what is needed isn’t complicated policy but getting back to the basics. Teachers must teach; students must study; and a culture of learning and discipline must be restored with the reintroduction of regular school inspections.
The fourth of the ‘big five’ issues for this election campaign is the question of corruption. There has been a systematic slide into the moral morass since the signing of the dubious and ill-conceived Arms Deal. That particular sore continues to fester; despite repeated reassurances to the contrary, senior ANC members have been implicated and convicted, or still face prosecution. Nor is that the only example of corruption. Oilgate and Travelgate and a host of dodgy tender processes at national, provincial and local government level confirm that corruption is not the exception, but the order of the day.
We contend that much of the heated factional conflict in the ANC is driven by the desire to cash in on these lucrative state contracts, not because of any policy differences. Let’s not even get started on the institutionalised nepotism that the ANC has fostered with its so-called ‘deployment of cadres’, which elevates party membership above qualification or ability, and which has bred a culture of mediocrity and incompetence in many parts of the civil service.
Can you trust the ‘new’ or the ‘old’ ANC to address corruption when they have presided over the systematic looting of state resources?
The National Party thought they’d mastered cronyism and corruption; this ANC government has bettered them at their own game!
You can trust the UDM to swiftly eradicate corruption as demonstrated by our track record over the years of consistently and fearlessly exposing corruption wherever and whenever we find it.
The last of the ‘big five’ issues for this election campaign is the question of accountability. There can be no doubt that our electoral system has been exploited by unscrupulous politicians who put the interests of the party before the interests of the nation. A UDM government will immediately initiate reform of the electoral system to increase accountability and give the voters more power.
The first major step we will take is the introduction of constituencies into the PR system to ensure that politicians have a specific geographically-defined community they represent.
Secondly, we will change the electoral laws to allow for a separately elected President, as is the case in many of the democracies across the globe; in that way we will put the power back in the hands of the voters to determine who their President will be. This ANC practice of a few unelected people imposing their choice for President on the nation is profoundly undemocratic and must come to an end.
That concludes a brief summary of the ‘big five’ campaign issues, which we’ll flesh out more in due course, but first allow me to conclude my formal speech with some comments about the political landscape.
The UDM is extremely excited about this election campaign. We sense a renewed excitement about politics among many voters. At the same time we also realise that many people, especially ANC voters, are concerned and even despondent about the current squabbles in that party.
We are determined to reach out to these voters to tell them that there is hope and there is an alternative; the failure of the ANC is not the failure of the democratic project. There are parties such as the UDM which continues to pursue the values of the Constitution, which puts your interests above its own, and which is still focused on the original agenda of building a better future for all South Africans.
There is much talk about a new political party breaking away from the ANC. I addressed this issue yesterday in the new fortnightly UDM letter to the nation, called “Let’s Talk”. Allow me to say two things on the topic now. Firstly, it is good for democracy that the ANC’s failures are exposed by people from within – they are confirming what we have been saying for many years; the ANC has gone astray.
Secondly, we welcome this new party but they must realise that there is a question of trust that they will also have to answer: Are you sincere? Or will you act like a Trojan Horse to deceive and capture disaffected ANC voters before the elections, only to enter into a cosy alliance with the ANC after the elections?
Whether the ANC splits or not we have reached a point in our political maturity where it is clear the best interests of the South African voters can only be served by checks on power.
A viable alternative party such as the UDM would allow us to safeguard against an unelected faction of the ruling party imposing its will on us all.
A viable alternative party such as the UDM would give voice to the frustration and disappointment at poor delivery.
South Africans must have a choice. The must know that the party or the candidate to whom they entrust their precious vote will truly represent their best interests. They must know that party will HEAR them and act accordingly. The viable alternative party to the ANC for all South Africans is the UDM.
I thank you.
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