Address at the FEDUSA 4th National Congress by the UDM President held in Boksburg, Gauteng (6 November 2008)

Ladies and Gentlemen

Thank you for the opportunity to address you. On behalf of the UDM I would like to congratulate you on convening your 4th National Congress and wish you well for the future.

We are meeting here at a time when the international economy is experiencing extreme upheavals. Here at home the economy has for the past year or more been slowing down. Inflation is on the way up; electricity, fuel and food are costing more. What it means for working class and poor families is that that they need to choose between vital necessities such as transport, nutrition or education for their children.

FEDUSA and its members are not just subjects of these economic difficulties, you are also active role-players with real influence. We appeal to you to help us to bring real debate about the economy back to centre stage in our politics.

Our economy suffers from jobless growth due to the confusion created by an ambivalent Tripartite Alliance (ANC, Cosatu & SACP). This ruling clique preaches elimination of unemployment in the streets and legislate retrenchments and greater unemployment in parliament.

For far too long one particular economic view has been prescribed to us as a nation without any consultation. Since the shift from the widely consulted RDP to the unilaterally announced GEAR announced, we have witnessed ASGI-SA and the so-called 'developmental state'; but none of these had done anything for the poor and the unemployed. As we speak there has never been any national consensus on a macro-economic policy which would address the backlogs, imbalances and inequalities in our country.

What we have witnessed is the partners in the Tripartite Alliance fighting over access to the spoils of state contracts and tenders, such as the Arms Deal, but meanwhile the labour market has been shrinking. We have also in the process taken note of labour membership fees being invested in companies that fail, or even worse, investments are made but the workers never receive dividends. Sharks in business and certain complicit labour leaders have targeted workers' money without any benefit ever deriving for the workers.

The union federations in this country have a responsibility to ensure that the monies of their members are invested properly, not in fly-by-night schemes.

An economic indaba, similar to CODESA, is required where the labour movement along with all other stakeholders in society can find consensus on the economic principles and direction of our country. Economic policy should not be determined solely by membership of the Tripartite Alliance. That strategy has delivered the jobless growth that has characterised our economy under ANC rule. There is no doubt that we need to open this debate beyond the NEDLAC partners.

If indeed we are to begin a true debate in this country about economic policy allow me to state my party's view on the topic.

The UDM's economic policy can be described in one slogan: Government must do more!

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 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 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.

In conclusion, I would like to thank FEDUSA for inviting us to share some thoughts on the future and economy of this country. The mere fact that you can give a platform to different political role-players demonstrates that you are an open-minded organisation. Indeed in the audience you have here, you may find people who subscribe to different political views, and it would not have been fair for only one political party to monopolise this space.

Equally one hopes that this mature approach by you will filter through to other labour federations in this country. We would encourage you to maintain your independence and avoid the quagmire of becoming embroiled in party political bickering. It is imperative for workers that their labour organisations do not abuse their membership and collective power in order to promote the interests of only one political party and even pledge labour funds to one party.

Stand your ground, state your case, and lobby all political parties. History will reveal, in the conflict between the oppressed and oppressors there was no winner except for the people of this country. There are people who like to claim that they struggled alone, or more than others, and as such think they are more entitled to a slice of the economic cake. It is time that we ensure our nation's destiny does not rest in the hands of such selfish and arrogant people.

I thank you.

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