Address at the IEC Conference in Durban re Towards Elections 2009 - Creating and environment for free and fair elections by the UDM President (25 November 2008)

Ladies and Gentlemen

The UDM would like to thank the IEC leadership for this timely conference to look at election preparations for 2009, and in particular focus on the culture of tolerance.

South Africans must be informed that the IEC together with the political parties have been planning for next year's elections to be held in April or early May next year. As a matter of principle we therefore reject any unilateral decision by one party to hold an early election. Whether we as political parties are ready to contest or not isn't the point. The point is that we must show respect to the democratic institutions, such as the IEC who have been aiming to be ready at a particular moment in time. It can't be a question merely of the ruling party calling election when it feels it is ready after receiving millions from its propped-up BEE millionaires. On a daily basis the ANC tells us there is no crisis in this country, so any decision to force an early election without any proper reasons could easily be tested in another venue such as the Constitutional Court.

The UDM condemns the lack of tolerance which has raised its ugly head in this part of the country, KwaZulu Natal. Both the UDM and COPE have in recent times been the victims of political intolerance; UDM members in Umlazi and elsewhere have experienced threats and intimidation; cases have been opened and people from another political party have been arrested. The lack of tolerance by some political party structures against the UDM and COPE should be viewed as a culmination of the earlier careless statements and threats by senior political leaders here, who made it clear that certain political parties are not welcome and should not attempt to campaign here.

Indeed in some circles those statements have been viewed as an escalation of the ethnic project into ethnic cleansing and perpetuating a laager mentality. This simply means that whoever dares to come to KZN will be viewed as an enemy.

On this issue of threats of violence, the UDM proposes that the IEC as a matter of urgency should facilitate a meeting between political leaders, the President of the country and his security cluster to ensure that we are all on the same page - we know that the IEC has no teeth when it comes to this.
There are certain guarantees that we require.

Perhaps we need to look at ways of punishing political parties that have proven to be active instigators violence and no-go areas, by removing them from the ballot paper in those wards where they resort to such profoundly undemocratic practices.

Another matter that requires urgent attention is a summit between the IEC, the political parties and the SABC. For instance if the SABC says that time will be allocated proportionally, will those outside Parliament get nothing?

Currently even those parties in Parliament do not get this supposed proportional treatment. Will the SABC for instance again give live coverage to the election rallies and manifesto launch, January 8 statements and closing rallies of the ANC? Will they again only give that privilege to the ruling party? Will the IEC feel after such a skewed electoral campaign that they have presided over a free and fair election?

Finally we call on the IEC and National Treasury to provide a clear-cut policy on political party funding. We hear that in KZN political parties are voting themselves R20 million for the elections. Will this be the policy in other provinces? In KZN we call on the UDM structures and other political parties not to approve such a bill unless the allocation is fair, in other words 50% distributed equally, and the rest proportionally, otherwise we'll only be perpetuating one-party dominance.

I thank you.

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