Speech by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) to the South African Chamber of Commerce and Industry - UDM Election Manifesto and Economic Issues Facing the Business Sector at Mandela Square, Sandton (4 March 2009)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Before I turn to the question of economic issues affecting the business sector, allow me to talk about the political realities that the business sector faces.

It has been proven that the success of any democracy requires both public and private funding.

Business did very well during the previous election campaign in 2004 by openly declaring their funding of political parties.

The UDM has been calling for the regulation of party funding, but both the ANC and the DA have flatly refused to cooperate on that score. Nevertheless the need for private sector contributions to a healthy and competitive multi-party democracy is paramount.

Now that the political parties have registered with the IEC and the campaigns are truly under way, there is a legitimate expectation from the parties and the public to see the private sector funding the political parties as they did in the previous elections.

Whilst there is a need to fund multi-party democracy, it must not be like we recently witnessed, when a R10 million donation from a businessman occurred and a few weeks later we see them receive a large tender. That is institutionalised corruption. One party cannot receive all the funding - it is perverse to fund one-party dominance.

Companies need to understand that this is their contribution to multi-party democracy - a system that makes it possible for them to operate profitably in this country. Under no circumstance must a donation be viewed as an opportunity to buy favours and access to tenders.

The election is less than seven weeks away and we hope that the private sector will move speedily to assist us to conduct the best possible campaigns, to reach the most voters. Because the essence of democracy depends of giving the voters a wide range of choices so that they can make an informed choice. It is when we lack the funding to communicate properly with the voters that a sense of disenfranchisement sets in among the electorate and we hear voter complaints about not knowing of any party that represents their views or aspirations.

The UDM philosophy in terms of the economy is illustrated by the slogan:
Government must do more!

Government has a duty to invest in, and promote, the South African economy.
Government must do more to ensure that our economy grows and that our businesses flourish, because that is the only way we can create the jobs that most South Africans are so concerned about.

We subscribe to John F Kennedy's assertion that a rising tide lifts all boats; in other words that when the economy grows, everybody benefits, but when the economy sinks it is the poor - those in the shallow water - that are stranded first.

One of the areas that need attention is the unemployed who do not have a formal structure representing them. We do not believe that organised labour, especially COSATU, adequately represent the views and needs of the jobless.
There is perhaps a need to create a Council for the Unemployed, which would sit for instance in NEDLAC as a full member to raise their views. In addition, because it will not have vested interests, such a Council could also act as a civil society watchdog in provincial and local governments, as well as private companies. They would be able to expose those who are guilty of nepotism and only appoint people who are aligned or related to them.

The UDM Manifesto speaks about various priorities that need be pursued in this regard, among others a specific focus on skills development and youth employment. It is totally unacceptable that thousands of our matriculants and graduates are loitering unemployed in the streets. They have a right, and indeed a duty, to be productive members of society. The current situation of inadequate education and high unemployment is creating another lost generation.

For the business sector this trend must be deeply troubling; it foretells a future economic environment that would not be favourable for business, or society as a whole.

The UDM proposes that far more needs to be done to unleash the power of small business. These are the engines of job creation, but after years of lip-service from Government it remains an arduous and bureaucratic nightmare to start a small business.

Another matter that the UDM is not shy about is that agriculture and other industries require subsidy support - they are competing against trading partners who subsidise their industries heavily. We can't fold our arms while the US, Europe and China spend trillions of dollars a year in subsidies, whilst our businesses and jobs are destroyed. We are not talking about rewarding unviable enterprises, but about protecting South African jobs during the current international financial crisis.

There are calls for support to big business, among them international companies whose social responsibility has been questioned in the past. We have to move carefully and not reward irresponsible behaviour. We especially have to question the arguments in favour of this type of bailout, whilst people who have in the past made the exact same fundamental call for government support to small business and the poor have been dubbed leftist and populist.

I thank you.

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