Speech by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) per invitation of the University of Pretoria regarding the UDM Election Manifesto and Elections 2009 (16 March 2009)

Ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for the opportunity to address you this evening. The UDM election manifesto is available on our website.

Once more as a nation we are being called upon to consider whether we are still on course with our democratic project.

South Africa in the past fifteen years has become reputed for building strong institutions to support democracy. Indeed, it was South Africa who extended a hand of friendship to the rest of Africa and the world. In the process we shed our status as a pariah and became a recognised leader on certain issues.

These elections are not just about service-delivery related issues, but also about making sure that we recapture any lost ground, occasioned by the infighting in the ruling party in the past four years.

The voters will be making their own prognosis about the past five years, in order to decide whether they can still trust those who were mandated in 2004 to run the country. There is no doubt in anybody’s mind that the events of the past 18 months – where there have been open campaigns to undermine the institutions of our democracy – have given people pause for thought.

What has been revealed clearly in these ruling party conflicts is that it all stems from greed. There was, and continues to be, a massive struggle for control in order to access resources for self-enrichment. In the process we see people who are avoiding their day in court and portraying themselves as victims.

This culture is new in this country, especially when one is charged for serious crimes, such as corruption. South Africans must flatly refuse any attempts to undermine the judiciary. We must reject any argument for a so-called political solution, which is simply another way of saying that some people are above the law.

One thing is certain, in the last decade all sorts of economic formulas have been introduced in this country without delivering jobs. Jobless growth is a contradiction; we need economic growth that creates jobs. Whoever wins the election must not claim that it is business as usual.

The UDM would not be callous if we were given the mandate to govern. Certainly we can’t carry on for another fifteen years before we start wondering whether the economic policy is working. A UDM Government would host an economic CODESA, involving all sectors of society. It is certain that we would at such an indaba identify the inherent weaknesses in current policy, and we would also seek national consensus on our economic objectives.

At the core of such an indaba would be the need to recognise that millions of people continue to be locked out of the formal economy. These people need to be active participants. They are the future wealth creators and should be given the opportunity to be active and productive participants in our economy.

On this score we identified – among others – agriculture, textiles and the intensification of skills development where Government should provide incentives to people, as countries in Europe, the USA and elsewhere are doing.

When you observe some of the major issues in this country such as xenophobia or racism, you will find that these issues can be traced back to the lack of empowerment of South Africans.

The UDM’s philosophy is that everybody, including the youth, must participate in this society, in order for us to become a winning nation.

Therefore the UDM Manifesto and campaign slogan is: Now is the time for ALL South Africans to shape their destiny!

The UDM says it is now time to stop this rot and corruption, where it is only people who belong to a certain party who get appointments and who have a say in how this country is run.

South Africa has so much potential, but we cannot achieve it if all of us are not participating. I know that there are many South Africans who say: We want to participate, but we are being excluded.

I have heard this in poor rural areas and in leafy middleclass neighbourhoods. It is the mantra of the experienced civil servant who is told: You cannot fill this vacant post, even though nobody else is available, because you have the wrong skin colour.

It is the complaint of the successful school leavers and graduates everywhere that they apply for jobs and are told: There are no jobs!

I think it is a shame that young people keep hearing from public platforms: “You are the future”, but when they apply for jobs the doors are closed.

The UDM proposes a two-step initiative to address this question of youth employment.

On the one hand we know that the civil service, especially at local level, is riddled with vacancies. A UDM Government will throw open the doors of opportunity and encourage the youth to apply for these positions.

In the Department of Education we are told there are 90 000 vacancies, and in the Department of Health the vacancies stand at 50 000. The UDM would immediately re-open the teacher colleges that were closed. We believe that there are many opportunities that exist within the civil service to provide jobs for the unemployed youth.

In this manner we can solve the skills crisis in the civil service and help to resolve the dilemma of young people who keep hearing that they can’t find employment until they have employment experience.

The second step in the UDM initiative for youth employment is linked to a comprehensive small business stimulus package. Young entrepreneurs, under a UDM Government will be given tax incentives, seed financing and mentorship programmes. We understand that the Ruperts and Motsepes of tomorrow need to start somewhere.

Another question that all of you will be very aware of as you go into the labour market is affirmative action and BEE. Let us embrace two realities.

Firstly, that there is no doubt that disadvantaged people must be brought into the economic mainstream. The truth of the matter is that we are still close to our unequal past, and I dare say that in the past fifteen years we lost valuable opportunities to appoint skilled and knowledgeable people, because the ruling party was obsessed with rewarding only its own members. As a result standards and quality of service dropped dramatically in many sectors, especially the civil service.

Secondly, we need to understand that our Constitution is a very sensitive document when it comes to rights and discrimination; therefore we must find ways of implementing affirmative action that does not punish the children of freedom on the basis of their skin colour.

It is hypocritical for a society and a government to preach to the youth about how they are the leaders of tomorrow, when today the youth are loitering the streets without jobs.

On the question of Education there is much that should be done. There are weaknesses and contradictions in these policies that do not equip children with the skills to find jobs.
The question of Education is a major issue for many South Africans. I believe after the election all South Africans must converge under one roof and bring in all the experts. We need to agree on the basic pillars of education. We need to break the pattern of the past fifteen years where Education policy revolved around the personality and whims of a Minister.

But there must be no doubt that we will return to the basics: Teachers must teach, students must study. Discipline must be returned to the classroom. School inspectors must be re-introduced immediately.

Certainly we cannot allow a single teacher’s union to hold the entire nation to ransom.

These are some of the ways in which the UDM hopes to provide you today with the tools to deal with tomorrow. But you also need to ask the politicians about what problems you will be inheriting tomorrow.

The UDM is the only political party that has prioritised the question of the Environment in our election manifesto. Climate change, weather disasters, water scarcity, desertification and pollution are massive challenges that must be dealt with today.

The youth and those who care about the youth need to be in the forefront of this battle. You must pressurise the politicians and the business leaders today, or tomorrow the youth will be stuck with a planet that is almost uninhabitable.

In conclusion, allow me to repeat what I have said on other occasions:

The challenge of our time is to put down the umshini wam and take up the laptop. Indeed it is time to put down the panga and take up the calculator. This is the struggle for the generation of today.

I thank you

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