Speech at the Business Development Forum regarding The meaning of the Zuma Cabinet and the role of the opposition by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) (19 May 2009, Vodaworld, Midrand, Gauteng)
Ladies and Gentlemen
The meaning of President Zuma's cabinet should not be expected to be significantly different from previous Cabinets under Presidents Mbeki and Mandela. This is a continuation of existing ANC programmes. They have said so - in so many words - that there won't be any changes in policy.
The question is thus: A continuation of what?
Those are the things that have become common in South Africa in the past 15 years.
The jury is still out on whether this new ANC cabinet will change from the ANC's established style of operating.
The new Cabinet is more geographically widespread, unlike the previous one that seemed to be dominated by the Nguni group.
When we look at the details of President Zuma's cabinet, we can see that he has tried to address some of the concerns that people have had about the clustering of certain departments; therefore we now see for instance the splitting of Tourism from Environment. He appears to have heeded the calls of many commentators.
On paper it might look like a bloated bureaucracy, but if it improves service delivery we will not fault President Zuma.
One thing we can't dispute is that he has rewarded his lieutenants. Whether they will be competent in running a government remains to be seen.
The advice I would give the President is to ensure that these newly-crowned princes and princesses should not be allowed to behave like their predecessors - by usurping the powers of the Accounting Officers (i.e. DGs) to issue political directives on matters such as where tenders should be awarded.
If he allows them to continue with that style of governance it will be evidence of the accusation that they merely fought to attain these positions to enrich themselves. Indeed that all the infighting in the ANC was about access to state resources.
There is an urgent need to restore the powers of the Accounting Officers and President Zuma must avoid Cabinet members deciding who their DGs should be. Rather leave that to the Public Service Commission, the President and to some extent the Parliamentary Committee on Public Service. Such an approach would avoid the danger of Cabinet members appointing their friends and thus paving the way for corruption.
The style of the outgoing government needs to be mentioned. The outgoing government relied too much on spin-doctors and spokespersons. At times South Africans were longing for direct communication from the President or relevant Minister, but they hardly ever got that, particularly when there were violent incidents in places such as Khutsong.
The new Executive will have to bring a new style of leadership, decisiveness and discipline to halt the current slide into lawlessness we have been witnessing.
The trouble with this new Executive is that some of them are still going to take a long time to get off the ground because of a lack of experience as well as trying to hammer in a new vision. This is especially true where new departments have to be launched.
Let's look at the Presidency. The previous President was accused of centralising power, but judging by the activities and changes to the new Presidency, we might have even more centralisation of power.
There is a definite conglomeration of people in the Union Buildings. There are two powerful new Ministers in the Presidency and rumours that other Ministers may also be shifted there. The Union Buildings seem to be gearing up to take on more power and influence than ever before.
The challenge however facing the new Presidency is the lack of economic policy that addresses our socio-economic problems. It means that both the planning department of Trevor Manuel and Mr Patel's Department must immediately bring all South Africans together in the near future with an aim to get consensus on identifying and developing innovative economic, social and environmental policies.
It is not going to work if they just sit in their offices and listen to nice-sounding bureaucratic language on duty assignments; they are the ones who must now drive the process of developing new economic policies. But the responsibility cannot be theirs alone. The clarion call of the UDM of an economic indaba is now more urgent than ever before. It is only once you've consulted with the people of this country that you can develop an economic policy that will be beneficial to the majority of South Africa.
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 of 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.
The very few blacks who are recipients of the BEE crumbs have instead accumulated more liabilities than assets, through overpriced shares of the white-owned companies.
Both Ministers Manuel and Patel need to keep contact with the public. They should give serious attention to the UDM policy proposal of a Presidential Council on Sustainable Development where all stakeholders in society actively interact and participate in developing their communities, instead of being excluded and waiting for handouts. South Africans want to know who controls their resources and want a say on how those resources are used.
Such a Council cascaded throughout national, provincial and local government levels would create the channel through which all sectors of society can participate in their development.
Such an approach would quickly determine why people have been living in the dark without electricity since 1994. Or why many have been living in shacks since the 80s in places like Cape Town, leading people to ask where this so-called freedom of 1994 is.
We must begin to give the people of the country an input. They can't simply be used as voting cattle every few years and thereafter those in power loot the resources of the state.
ROLE OF THE OPPOSITION
As for the role of the opposition; the opposition parties as they appear in Parliament have been given a mandate by the voters of this country. The numbers might not be what some of us would like to see, but my experience in the politics of South Africa, especially in Parliament, is that it isn't only about numbers, but about the quality of the issues that are raised by the opposition.
There are many cases where the opposition have exposed the embarrassing failures of the ruling party. Contrary to the belief that the opposition in South Africa does not have a role to play, the mere fact that neither President Mbeki nor his former Deputy President Mr Zuma finished their last terms in office proves the contrary. It was because of opposition pressure to have the arms deal investigated that both those gentlemen were recalled.
There have been countless incidents of such a nature. It is in the national interest that we in the opposition ensure the ruling party stays true to its mandate.
I foresee that the new cabinet will still be scrutinised in the same fashion by the opposition. There will be no change in that regard. Whether you talk of threats to the institutions of democracy or the abuse of state resources, we in the opposition will expose it and demand action until somebody listens.
For its part the UDM has assisted in the past in nation-building, seeking the route of cooperation where that would best serve the interests of the country. We have been selective in our battles, defending principles, not merely opposing for the sake of opposition. We will never close the lines of communication with the Government and its departments, because the voters expect us to be their voice when Government will not listen to them.
Selective cooperation with Government on issues of national importance does not mean that one has to sacrifice one's principles or independence.
I thank you.
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