Speech at the State of the Nation Debate in the National Assembly by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP (UDM President) (4 June 2009)

Mr Speaker, His Excellency President of the Republic and your Deputy, Honourable Ministers, and Honourable Members.

The United Democratic Movement congratulates the newly appointed Cabinet Members. In the same vein we wish to congratulate the new DA Parliamentary leader, Honourable, Mr Trollip, for the honour bestowed upon him by his party. The reality is that President Zuma and his Cabinet as well as the majority party in opposition will be carefully watched by the voters who gave you the mandate, to improve the quality of their lives.

However, judging by the recent public spat between the two parties, the advice one can give is that if we want to focus on the real issues you would need to respect one another.

To you Honourable Mr Trollip and your colleagues, you must know that ukusukela nge – 9 May 2009, kuyasholozwa kweli-lizwe. The golden rule is that irrespective of our mandates in this House, the office of the President must be respected.

Mr President South Africans have taken note of your statement of intent, from today onward we will try to unpack and understand it. The people in the rural areas and outlying towns in particular will breathe a sigh of relief, after you committed your government to improve their conditions.

For the first time the people from areas like Mokgalwana and Matlametlong of North West, towns like Umtata and Butterworth who are struggling for water, electricity and are experiencing impassable roads in their areas will possibly be heard. Indeed the people of Transkei will expect an answer from your government, as to why the stadium promised to them for the 2010 Fifa World Cup is not yet begun.

One other issue which I wish to raise during the State of the Nation’s Debate; is how we as a Country have conducted the recent elections. Despite the reported intimidation, the maturity displayed by all political parties 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.

I therefore would like to remind all political parties present here that the Multi-Party Forum which we all belong to has been engaging with the IEC on a number of issues, we should use this legislature to finalise the pending issues such as: -
• Party Funding legislation
• The IEC’s level of independence
• Decision making level of the Political Liaison Committee (PLC)
• Media, especially Public Broadcasting
• Creating an enabling environment of participatory democracy

Mr Speaker and Honourable Members, the most critical challenge facing the nation, and this new government, is to continue to fight poverty with job creation.

We believe that jobs are the ultimate weapon against poverty and that the economy must be managed to ensure the achievement of this goal. Government has a responsibility to intervene and protect the South African economy and jobs when necessary. Whilst Free Market Capitalism is the best economic system developed by humanity, it is still fraught with weaknesses and failures that must be actively managed.

We should take leaf from the outside world who when they were faced with an economic meltdown did not pussyfoot, instead took decisive steps to remedy their situations.

South Africans are suspicious and mistrust Government because of perceptions that it is not equitably distributing the resources of the country. Indeed since 1994 there has not been a consensus on a macro-economic policy that can transform the economy in a manner that could create and spread wealth wider and improve the lot of disadvantaged majority. There are in particular concerns about the inadequacies and contradictions of the fiscal and industrial policies. Consequently, the gains of liberation in 1994 have not translated into real economic freedom for all.

A classic example is the recent call by COSATU to boycott Vodacom products and services.

However, their call should be viewed in the context of a directive issued by the former Secretary General of COSATU in his capacity as a Minister of Communications, which culminated in the selling of 15, 2 % Telkom shares to Thintana Group of USA. Those shares as we all know had made their way back to a South African Consortium, which includes an entity that carries a beneficial interest of some individuals and institutions, aligned to the ruling party.

Before any intended boycott therefore takes place I would call upon you Mr President to investigate the structure and beneficiaries of an entity known as Clident 1 and Clident 445 PTY LTD, which have also an interest in the sale of Vodacom shares by Telkom.

We contend that this economic policy uncertainty is unhealthy for the long-term growth of the country. Just as CODESA served as a forum where the nation could gather to find broad consensus on the political dispensation, so an economic indaba is required to find broad consensus on the economic dispensation. As with CODESA, it does not mean that we must all agree on every minor detail and nuance, but it should be possible to reach a general agreement on the direction and parameters of our economic policy.

For our part the UDM will enter such an economic indaba with one goal, namely to argue that the basis of economic policy must be the expansion of the economic cake, so that we can give a bigger slice to everybody. Right now the economic cake remains overwhelmingly in the hands of the minority, along with small black elite, whilst the majority do not have a seat at the table and must survive upon the crumbs that happen to fall on the floor.

Our only option – if we are serious about uplifting the masses and sustaining the democratic project – is to adopt economic policies that are geared towards opening the doors to the fortress of the formal economy for the millions who are locked outside of it.

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. Yes we need to deracialize our economy. Since 1994 black South Africans have made no real progress in ownership and control of the economy.

Both Ministers Manuel and Patel need to keep contact with the public. They should give serious attention to the UDM policy proposal to establish 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.
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.

I wish the President and his cabinet good luck with their term in office: Now is the time to deliver.

I thank you.

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