Address at Tshwane University of Technology and Pretoria News: Public Intellectual Discourse ( Pretoria) regarding Faltering Economy: Government Must do More, and the Current Political Events by the UDM President (28 October 2008)
Ladies and Gentlemen
We are meeting here this evening at a time, where the gap between the rich and poor in our country is widening. Research results produced by credible institutions indicate that we are not succeeding in alleviating the levels of poverty. This can be traced back to our early days where upon obtaining our freedom, we failed to identify our priorities correctly.
For example, was it politically correct to invest in the Arms Deal instead of Social Security? Many public statements on the Arms Deal saga assert that Parliament approved the Defence Review and thereby approved the decision to purchase military equipment. ANC ministers and –politicians have made this assertion frequently since the Arms Deal scandal first emerged. However, it is fundamentally and demonstrably inaccurate.
This is over and above the allegations of impropriety against the “comrades in corruption”. The experts argue that the implications relate to policy, parliamentary mandates and the debate around state expenditure priorities.
The Defence Review was conducted in terms of the overarching policy framework of the White Paper on Defence, approved by Cabinet and Parliament in 1996. The White Paper proclaims that national security is no longer a predominantly military and police problem. It encompasses the consolidation of democracy, economic development and the achievement of social justice. At the heart of this new approach is a “paramount concern with the security of people”.
The White Paper goes on to declare that the greatest threats to the security of our people are socio-economic problems like poverty, unemployment, poor education and the lack of housing and adequate social services. In the absence of any foreseeable external military threat, there is “a compelling need to reallocate state resources to the Reconstruction and Development Programme”. The challenge facing the Department of Defence is - “to rationalise the SANDF and contain military spending without undermining the country’s core defence capability”.
We do not dispute the fact that the Defence Review contained a force design that lists the type and quantity of military hardware deemed necessary for the SANDF to fulfil its functions. The list includes submarines, corvettes and the other weapons systems that formed part of the procurement package. However, the Review describes the force design as a “vision” that will change over time. The final detail concerning the type and quantity of weaponry to be acquired will “inevitably deviate from the vision” and “such deviations will be subject to parliamentary oversight”.
Notwithstanding the binding agreement, President Mbeki’s Cabinet reneged on it and induced government to underwrite the R29.9 billion Arms Procurement Deal behind Parliament’s back. This has now escalated to R60 billion, and still mounting.
Opposition parties, religious groupings and civil society at large questioned the logic of such staggering expenditure on weapons of war in peacetime when there was such a backlog of social delivery reflecting the historical imbalances of the old order.
In their defence the Cabinet argued that the arms procurement deal would generate 65 000 jobs and R104 billion in offsets though investment and counter-trade.
If arms procurement is such a lucrative undertaking one wonders why developing countries do not embark on arms purchases in order to make more money and create more jobs. The people in the driving seat of this deal were the Cabinet subcommittee chaired by then President Mbeki.
The lack of coherent policy priorities to address these imbalances and backlogs, has led to the loss of hope by many South Africans.
Is it not ironic that today both leaders of the ruling party namely, Mbeki and Zuma could both not finish their terms of office, precisely because of Arms Deal related shenanigans?
A decade later we as a country need to refocus our collective attention on the economy in order to address the socio-economic inequalities that continue to define the lives of millions of South Africans.
The UDM’s economic policy can be described in one slogan: Government must do more!
This year we celebrate 14 years of freedom. We understand freedom as the ability of individuals and groups to make choices and pursue their aspirations freely. This includes choices such as where to live, what work to choose and where to engage in it, where and what to learn, where and what business to pursue, and many others.
This means that the level of our freedom depends on the socio-economic conditions we live in. The better the socio-economic conditions, the greater the freedom of citizens to pursue their aspirations and address their concerns.
Our democratic Constitution seeks to guarantee our freedom, but this can only be achieved if the socio-economic environment allows the Bill of Rights to become a reality for all South Africans.
Whilst Apartheid undermined the majority’s dignity and freedom, the current levels of unemployment, poverty, crime and HIV/AIDS are taking many South Africans back to that same state of hardship and suffering experienced under Apartheid.
Fundamentally the UDM is convinced that the economy, jobs and poverty are inter-linked issues. We believe that jobs are the ultimate weapon against poverty and that the economy must be managed to ensure the achievement of this goal. Government has a responsibility to intervene and protect the South African economy and South African jobs when necessary. Whilst Free Market Capitalism is the best economic system developed by humanity, it is still fraught with weaknesses and failures that must be actively managed.
The history of this country from the days of the Afrikaner emancipation from being poor to where they are today, has been about the reasonable intervention of the state to invest in the economy, albeit under “separate development”. The situation was aggravated further by economic sanctions. Indeed when the people in 1994 stood in long queues in the rural areas, townships and urban areas to vote, they believed that the policies of discrimination would be a thing of the past. They voted with the hope that economic emancipation would occur, so that everybody could thrive.
Alas it was hardly a year or two when the ruling party introduced its macro-economic policy, GEAR. More than a decade later, this country still doesn’t have any consensus on what sort of macro-economic policy would create jobs and distribute wealth wider to improve the lot of the disadvantaged communities.
When it adopted GEAR, the ANC was playing to an international audience that do not themselves practice what they preach. As a result the ANC let many of the irrigation schemes fall into disrepair and did away with subsidies and protection for farmers – which decimated the agricultural sector as well as industries such as textiles. Import protection measures were abolished too hastily, which closed down many local manufacturers. Incentives for foreign and local investors were removed and almost all economic focus shifted to the large metropolitan areas – formerly thriving industrial areas became desolated wastelands. Is it any wonder that people who lost their incomes and jobs would stream towards the big cities as a result? The road and rail networks have been neglected for so long that many places in the country are almost inaccessible to all but four-wheel drive vehicles.
The governments of the USA, Europe, China, India, Brazil and most others recognise the responsibility that they have towards their citizens and intervene to protect their domestic jobs and businesses. A Government that proposes anything less does not care about its people, and is not willing to accept responsibility for their welfare and prosperity.
On 8 October the UDM launched it’s election campaign. Our election campaign will be underpinned by themes of inclusiveness, consultation and accountability. These are the three democratic ingredients that the ruling party lacks, and which dooms any election promises they might make in the coming months.
Whilst there are many pressing issues facing us as a nation, we have chosen to highlight the “big five” today. In due time, when the poll date is announced, we will launch a comprehensive election manifesto that addresses not just these, but all the major issues.
The big five issues are:
Number two; fighting crime. South Africans from all communities are tired of feeling unsafe in their streets, neighbourhoods and homes. Criminals have learnt to strike with impunity because the entire criminal justice system is dysfunctional. The police are under funded and underpaid and rarely arrest the suspect. The courts are in a similar state of being under funded and overburdened, so the small percentage of suspects that are arrested are rarely successfully convicted.
Number three; education. Our education system has been in constant flux since the 1994; many teachers, pupils and parents have no idea what exactly Government policy is, aside from poor matriculation results.
Number four; corruption. As I have illustrated earlier by way of the Arms Deal, corruption has devastating consequences. Nor was that the only instance of corruption; Travelgate, Oilgate etc. Right down to municipal level, Government tenders and processes have become a trough where well-connected pigs eat at the expense of taxpayers, the poor and service delivery in general.
Number five; electoral reform. The UDM has for many years campaigned for vital electoral reforms in order to level the playing fields. For the past three years we have specifically called for the introduction of constituencies in the PR electoral system. We have also called for a separate election in which the people of the country can directly elect the President of their choice, and so be free from the machinations of a small faction in the ruling party. I note that such electoral reform has been taken up by Mr Lekota.
But let me return to the question of economic policy as the one issue that remains paramount to all South Africans.
A UDM Government will focus on job creation and stimulating economic growth, investor confidence and efficient service delivery, but will be equally aware, and willing, to responsibly intervene in the economy to open up business and employment opportunities for all South Africans. Because South Africans deserve to have an input in how the economy is run and how job creation is pursued, in line with the principles of inclusiveness and consultation, the UDM would call an economic indaba along the lines of CODESA, with a view to finding broad national consensus on what sort of economic objectives and principles would be used by any Government. Never again should economic policy be left in the hands of a small elite, who might be owing their allegiance to the people who bankroll their party. Any political paradigm shift will have to keep economic policy within the agreed upon economic framework.
What we need to do is put a stop to the culture of dependence and entitlement that has been fostered in the past few years. But if we continue down the current policy path nothing will change, wealth will always be in the hands of a small proportion of the population – irrespective of their race – and the majority will be standing with begging bowls looking for a little handout.
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’. It is an indictment of the current economic policy that our young talent is loitering the streets unable to find employment.
Whether you talk about education, poverty or whatever policy challenge, there is no doubt that whatever country you are discussing the first question is whether that economy is strong enough to deal with these challenges. We therefore differ with the new ANC leadership that say that there is no need to change economic policy; we believe that the inherent defects in our economic policy should be identified and addressed.
Turning to the current politics in the country; we have been witnessing the infighting in the ANC which started almost the day that the investigators into the Arms Deal found that there was something for then Deputy President Zuma to answer. Mr Ngcuka, then NPA head, confirmed this; although he claimed that the evidence at that stage was not sufficient to secure a successful conviction. That process culminated in Mr Zuma being removed from office. The issue has divided the ANC, and if one looks at talkshows and newspaper letters, it has divided the nation as well.
The situation was worsened by Mr Zuma himself who kept saying he wants his day in court, but at the same time he went out of his way to hinder the prosecution. For instance, he famously went to the extent of going to Mauritius to challenge the admission into evidence of a diary that doesn’t even belong to him. He is portraying himself as a victim. Indeed he has spent most of his time in court challenging technical issues, flatly refusing to deal with the merits of the case. On the other hand people have been waiting anxiously for the NPA to substantiate their charges which allege that Zuma was involved in R4 million worth of corruption and fraud.
The whole issue stems from the Arms Deal. The ANC which is supposed to be the custodian of the Constitution has even suggested profoundly undemocratic steps such as the charges against Zuma being dropped and a so-called ‘political solution’ being applied.
What is becoming clear is that both the Zuma faction and the faction led by Mbeki are vehemently opposed to an Independent Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the Arms Deal. Zuma even went a step further by saying that if he were to be charged/convicted he wouldn’t go down alone, but would finger other people. Now that’s a mouthful on its own.
The other issue that the ruling party has been challenged on is the question of devaluing institutions of the democratic state, such as the courts, the SABC, the Constitutional Court, the NPA, the Scorpions and others.
The war-talk which characterises the new leadership of the ANC has also put them under pressure. Indeed there are those who argue strongly that the new leadership of the ANC have jettisoned the values of respect and decency.
Also when it comes to policy they have been found wanting; whether it is on the Scorpions or the removal of Mbeki, the new leaders of the ANC have contradicted each other. Currently, on the question of economic policy they are again contradicting themselves, with Zuma and Motlanthe saying one thing to foreign investors and Mantashe saying another. These contradictions and uncertainties have caused people to question whether they are ready to govern.
These contradictions have actually infuriated some of the ANC members, who decided that it is best for them to test the waters on whether the time has not arrived to start a new political party.
Judging by the reaction and the interest shown so far and the panic buttons that the ruling party has pressed about the possibility of this new party, there are chances that come next year’s election the two-thirds majority of the ANC will be a thing of the past. We may see the beginnings of coalition governments at various levels, provided that the ANC won’t use the same violent tactics they used against the UDM when for instance our Secretary General was murdered.
Obviously service delivery will improve once the ANC’s power and arrogance have been reduced. Service delivery has been at a standstill since the Mbeki and Zuma battle came to a head in the run-up to Polokwane last year.
We are witnessing salvoes being fired from Luthuli House trying to discredit the Lekota group by insulting them and calling them names such as “counter-revolutionaries”, “dogs”, “dead snakes”, “monkeys” and upper-class elitists. The irony is that the leadership of the people who are blowing these trumpets include many dodgy characters; in the NEC of the ANC there are many people who have been subject to investigation, or are currently been investigated, for questionable activities.
Out of the picture I’ve painted above we can expect to see the emergence of two political parties from the ranks of the ANC. What we are witnessing in this split is people in the ANC following one of two streams; one representing the values of the Constitution, and another disgruntled group who are aggrieved because of supposedly being sidelined by Mbeki.
The voters next year will obviously have the last say in the matter, on who was right and who was wrong. In the meantime the ANC has vowed that it won’t be smooth sailing for the people who leave; they are resorting back to the violent ways they used against the UDM when it was launched. Lekota and his group might play a part in establishing the foundation for an alternative to the ANC, especially if they do well in the election. Any realistic alternative to the ruling party will have to include people who understand the passage of the Struggle.
The forthcoming convention can be seen as one of the initial phases for the establishment of an alternative. The next phase would be for all like-minded parties to meet directly after the election and discuss the possible levels of cooperation with a view to prepare for 2014. We would need to compare policy and philosophy and satisfy ourselves whether we can realistically join ranks and form a new movement. It would require a second bigger national convention to involve all South Africans and civil society to ensure maximum consensus and buy-in.
I thank you.
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