Speech by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) to the Cape Town Press Club (5 May 2009, Cape Town)
Ladies and Gentlemen
At first glance only one party gained in this election, the DA. Their performance however can best be measured by combining the percentages of the former NP and DP in 1999, which are the constituent parts of the DA. Such a comparison shows that the DA essentially gained precisely what its former components received. Nevertheless, it can be said then that they still performed to their full potential; meaning that they mobilised their voters better than other parties.
The relative good performance of the DA, aside, every other political party performed badly. As at 21 April 2009 the ANC had 279 MPs, today it is 264. The UDM had 6 MPs, today it is 4. The IFP had 23, today it is 18 and so on.
The other major trend that has happened, despite overall poor performance by the opposition is that the ANC has lost 10 to 20% of its support in eight of the nine provinces.
What we should try to analyse now is the mood of the voters. What exactly do the voters want?
One thing that is becoming clear is that the voters seem to be looking for two strong political parties on the centre stage, but do not quite have the choice on the ballot paper yet.
Perhaps the voters have been ahead of the political parties for several years now, when they have been arguing in the newspapers and talkshows that we should end the fragmentation of the opposition and build one strong alternative to the ruling party.
Over and above the voters' desire to have two strong parties on the political stage, we cannot deny that funding played a major role in this election campaign.
This is not merely a handy excuse. For instance it was reported that the ruling party spent about R20 million on one weekend's campaign events! That is a vast sum of money. Let me put it in another context to demonstrate exactly how much money that is; it is more than the combined election budgets for the UDM in 1999, 2004 and 2009.
In order for us to reach all communities of South Africa we might have to adopt the same strategy as the ruling party and seek foreign funding. It does not help us to fold our arms and say it is not a healthy thing for political parties to receive secret foreign donations. We would like to avoid such an approach, but we cannot allow ourselves to be spent out of the electoral contest.
We have since our inception been unequivocal supporters of IDASA and other campaigners who have sought to bring greater accountability and transparency to party funding. But we can see that we'll be waiting forever for the system to be changed when it so perfectly suits the ruling party.
We have five years to see whether we too can find friends on foreign shores who would like to support our partisan efforts.
A frequent question is: Why do the poor and marginalised continue to support the ruling party?
The strategy of not creating jobs for people and making them dependent on grants and food parcels, has worked for the ruling party. It effectively turns people into voting cattle; the ruling party resorts to blackmailing people at election time, saying the grants and food won't continue if the ANC is not returned to power.
Take for instance the fracas between the ANC and COPE over food parcels.
This is a strategy to deny people independence, because when you work you are independent, but when you're hungry you depend on the largesse and promises of those in power.
It is a cruel strategy but it has worked.
In order to avoid a second revolution in this country, there is a need to deracialize our economy. There is no doubt in anybody's mind that the ownership and control of the economy of this country is still in the hands of the minority. There is therefore a need to radically transform our economy, so as to accommodate the majority citizens. Since 1994 black South Africans have made no real progress in ownership and control of the economy.
The challenge of our time is for the new government to invest more time in finding solutions to our socio-economic problems.
Back to the desire of voters to see a strong alternative to the ruling party. If that is indeed the mood of the voters, the onus is on the individual political parties. When they analyse the election results they need to do a deep introspection with a view to forging a new way forward.
How do we move forward from now on in opposition ranks? The leaders of parties like the DA, COPE, IFP, ID and UDM should take the initiative to move matters forward. As I suggested at last year's convention: we need to have another convention to look at which parties and in what format can become a viable alternative to the ruling party. It will need to be something broader and more inclusive than merely a clustering together of existing opposition parties. It will also have to represent unequivocally the majority of the citizens.
In all our discussions in this debate our point of departure should be the recommitment to the principle of improving the quality of lives of the people of South Africa as a national objective agreed to by all parties during the negotiation process prior to 1994. It is particularly important since 15 years into democracy research by credible institutions indicate that the gap between rich and poor is widening.
The immediate way forward could be to form a small committee of political leaders among parties that are similar in outlook, in order to prepare for such a convention.
If there is such committee and process underway, we could for instance have some strategic joint caucuses when there are issues of national importance before Parliament.
However if there are preconditions and political posturing by party leaders we can kiss goodbye the idea of building a strong alternative. Under such circumstances people shouldn't cry when we see a continuation of one-party dominance.
In the meantime, the UDM will continue to play the role it has been playing, both in and out of Parliament. The challenge facing us right now is to amass resources to recruit and train more members in preparations for 2011 and 2014 elections respectively.
The maturity displayed by all political parties despite the shortcomings of the IEC is commendable. However, the IEC, government and political parties must accelerate the improvement of the infrastructure so to eliminate any chances of fraud. The fact that it is becoming so easy for any Jack and Jill to have access to ballot papers and scanners as we witnessed in Cape Town serves as a reminder that a lot still has to be done. Further, the IEC has not been transparent on the role played by the National Intelligence Agency (NIA). We want to see an IEC which is not embedded in any state department.
I thank you.
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