Address at the UDM's 4th National Congress (Port Elizabeth) at the opening session of Congress on 18 December 2010 by the UDM President
And also to Mama Nilo Botha, our veteran… Welkom Mama! Thank you for gracing us with your presence.
Welcome to the 4th National Congress of the United Democratic Movement.
We are gathered here to deliberate on the most important challenges facing our country and our organisation. The UDM National Congress which happens every five years is the highest decision-making body of the Party. It is here that we elect our national leadership and where we set the course that the organisation will take over the next five years.
We are not gathered here to develop policies for the benefit of the predators and hyenas who parade and masquerade as leaders of our people
We are proud of the fact that we are convening this important congress on time, unlike the turmoil we are witnessing in many other political parties.
We gather here in the Eastern Cape; a province which is characterised by poverty and with infrastructure that lags far behind the rest of the country. On top of this, the provincial leadership in government has changed often because of infighting causing instability and slow service delivery.
Despite the Eastern Cape being renowned for producing leaders that were in the forefront of the struggle for democracy, the province has been neglected by successive ANC governments.
A new trend is becoming increasingly visible, namely the regionalisation of South African politics, with people from one region – who supported President Jacob Zuma’s rise to power – being favoured for appointments in the national government. This regionalisation threatens to create further imbalances in government spending in the poorest provinces, such as the Eastern Cape and Limpopo.
In the past five years we have seen that Government is fond of ‘elite projects’, such as the Gautrain. Whilst some of these serve a good cause, we are doubtful about others. For instance, we now hear that R30 billion is to be spent on a rapid-raillink between Durban and Johannesburg, whilst millions of South Africans still need access to clean water. The priority must be to use the resources of the state to deliver basic services. Instead Government seems hell-bent on elite projects that often seem designed as nothing but a way for the ruling party and its cohorts to get their hands on lucrative state tenders, as we saw in the Arms Deal.
We have just emerged from hosting one of the most successful Fifa Soccer World Cups. We demonstrated our ability to put on a show that impressed the whole world and silenced even our most jaded critics.
Under a skyline, filled with thousands of South African flags, citizens from all walks of life embraced one another as we cheered on Bafana Bafana and entertained our international guests.
Unfortunately the World Cup has been a small ray of hope in comparison to the dark storms gathering around the nation.
On the economic front we have witnessed the continued decline of growth and the loss of hundreds of thousands of jobs every year. In less than two years since the re-election of the ruling party more than a million jobs have been lost.
This is the same governing party who now promises that five million jobs to be created under their latest economic experiment. But South Africans have already seen these extravagant job creation promises. And yet the RDP, GEAR and ASGISA have all come and gone without delivering the promised jobs. If history is anything to go by, then we will see the same happen with this new version of the so-called Economic Growth Path.
In the future, our children will look back on this period and declare that it should have been obvious to everyone that the ANC did not have the faintest idea how to create jobs. It might not be politically correct to say so, but under Apartheid and the homelands jobs were created. Their economic model – albeit under separate development – created jobs; one would have thought that once the democratic South Africa re-entered the international arena, we would do much better with job creation. But instead the opposite has happened. Two of the biggest inhibiting factors have been corruption and incompetence. The state’s ability to stimulate economic growth has been undermined; as a result even simple things are neglected, such as ensuring that potholes are filled.
Surely after 15 years of economic experimentation it must be clear that the ruling party has run out of ideas; that they are merely tinkering with policy in the blind hope that they’ll somehow stumble upon a solution.
With the latest New Growth Path we once again have policy that was written behind closed doors and foisted on the Nation. Once more we are witnessing the posturing and bickering among the Tripartite Alliance, as they did with GEAR. It seems that this latest policy, is an attempt by President Zuma to get around his earlier statements, that there would be no change in the economic policy he inherited from President Mbeki.
I believe that the UDM must resuscitate its campaign for an economic indaba - in much the same way that our political freedom began with CODESA. South Africans need to gather and reach consensus on how we will build an economy that meets all our needs.
This economic indaba is our last hope to determine what the resources of the state are, and how to fairly distribute them for the benefit of all South Africans. Currently, state resources, are being looted by certain prominent families. The oligarchy that is emerging, actually reflects the situation we saw under Apartheid, where the so-called Big Four dominated the economy. Is the country replicating this model of an elite exploiting the masses?
The UDM must lobby society to bring an end to the ANC government’s practice of writing policy around the personality of a member of the Executive. An economic indaba would help to establish consensus on the basic pillars of socio-economic policy, which any incoming Minister would have to respect. To see the dangers of personalising policy, we need only to look at the disasters that followed in the wake of each new Education policy adopted by the new minister since 1994; the same happened with Health. Similarly, economic policy in the previous two terms was moulded around the personality of former President Mbeki.
The latest example of this dangerous trend is Minister Patel, whose only experience of economic policy, that we know of, is that he toy-toyed in the streets at some point in his life.
POLITICAL DIRECTIVES BREED CORRUPTION
These Ministers often appoint friends, family and even their acquaintances; and then collude to commit tender fraud. Those who do not want to play their dirty game are shown the door.
The Directors General and senior civil servants who are committed to service delivery have no protection from these political directives. If they were independently appointed and encouraged to report all political directives to Parliament, the corruption will stop.
The political directives I refer to are those instances where Ministers override the decisions of their Accounting Officers, and you find that the budgets are abused to pursue the elite projects I mentioned earlier.
SIZE OF THE CABINET
Parliament should have the power to prevent the people who have failed as Ministers from being rewarded with other positions in the state, such as ambassadors’ posts. What we are witnessing makes us look like a banana republic in the eyes of the world.
THE FUTURE OF OUR PROVINCES
Another related issue is the ‘own affairs’ way of running provinces. We should be appointing administrators on merit, and move away from the tribal connotations of provinces. Even the naming of certain provinces perpetuates these connotations. It is necessary to de-tribalise provincial administration.
It should not be taboo for the President to appoint a competent person to lead a province, even if he or she is not from that province. The current system creates a cosy environment in which incompetence is tolerated and corruption is rife. By de-tribalising provincial administration we would be introducing checks and balances to counter corruption and incompetence.
Members will recall that I wrote to Presidents Mbeki and Zuma about the poor infrastructure in the Eastern Cape; this led to the SA Roads Agency doing good work on the N2. How I wish they could be empowered to handle provincial roadwork too, because currently the provincial government is neglecting that task and even destroying what little there is, through incompetence.
This congress should perhaps have a formal resolution on this topical issue.
We have witnessed how the national and provincial governments always put the blame for lack of service delivery on local councils, yet they are also guilty of not providing proper budgets and resources to local councils to deliver services. Currently, according to studies, many provinces have billion of Rands shortfall in terms of infrastructure maintenance and development. There is no way that councillors alone should carry the blame for the lack of service delivery in such circumstances. The same national and provincial authorities that claim there is a lack of funding for such vital causes are capable of quickly finding money for projects in which their party, friends and relatives win tenders.
In many areas councillors have been used as canon fodder, being made the scapegoats for the failure of all three levels of government to deliver services.
In our closing session this evening we will be discussing in detail how we should be gearing ourselves for Municipal Elections 2011.
Nonetheless the leaders of some opposition parties had informally met early in 2010 and agreed on the importance of this debate. Since then we have not had any opportunity to reassemble, and it may be necessary to engage again and get the broader realignment debate moving forward.
UDM members are referred to the discussion document which was released in August 2009; in that document we suggested that when we discuss re-alignment we should be guided by the following scenarios:- Devise a cooperation model, without losing the identities of the political parties; such as working together under one umbrella during elections.
As we have said before, realignment is a process and it should be treated as such.
The results of the previous election indicate that the South African electoral landscape is shifting and it is our analysis that eventually a balance of power will emerge between two strong political parties.
However for forthcoming Local Government Election we are too late to really tackle this issue. After these elections, we will have to take time to debate political realignment with other stakeholders. For now, let us go out and prepare as the UDM to fight these election.
PARTY BUILDING AND STATE OF THE ORGANISATION The UDM has soldiered on despite many political pundits having written our obituaries since our inception. That we are here at our 4th National Congress demonstrates that the UDM is a disciplined and principled party.
We have been vindicated on many of the issues we have raised over the years, such as the Arms Deal. Similarly, we have been vindicated in our battle against floor-crossing, which has been scrapped from the statute books, even though it has left many scars on the UDM in terms of human and financial resources.
We have been proactive in developing policy which we handed over to the Mbeki government, and now some of those policies have been adopted.
Our approach of not being reactionary or just opposing everything that moves, has stood us in good stead. We must continue to put the country first.
We have contributed to the wellbeing of this country, and we maintain that there remains a space for the UDM to continue to play this positive role.
However in this National Congress we should debate how we can spread the message of the UDM to every part of the country. We would emerge stronger from this Congress if we can identify such strategies.
There have been discussion documents tabled at this Congress on building the Party and developing policy. Let’s go Back to Basic and build the UDM.
We have an opportunity which has presented itself to us because of the infighting and lack of discipline in the ruling party and other parties. Voters need an alternative, and it is up to us to show them that the UDM is that alternative.
In order to that, we must do introspection and interrogate our weaknesses. There will not be dozens of luminaries making speeches at this Congress, like you would see at other party congresses. After my speech we must get down to business and engage in serious debate.
Even those voters who formerly voted for the UDM and then pinned their hopes on a new political party in the last elections, must surely be ready to come home.
The other challenge facing us are that our structures barely exist in name in certain areas and are incapable of mobilising for even the most basic of organisational functions
The current state of affairs, point to a lack of leadership, initiative and enthusiasm within many structures.
One of the failures of our Party is that we have not formally chosen long-term shadow cabinets on provincial and national levels, which would help the UDM to propagate its policies and views on topical issues on a continuous basis.
Such an organisational approach would dispel the notion that the UDM is a one-man party. The National Congress must provide guidance for the development of such an organisational arrangement.
At the same time it is important to note that such a strategy will fail if the elected national office bearers and/or the proposed shadow cabinets are not properly qualified and dedicated.
We require people who are dedicated and hard-working; people for whom the hurdles are challenges to overcome, as opposed to excuses for not doing what they were elected to do.
We need office-bearers and public representatives who accept nomination because they want to serve the UDM and advance its interests, not simply to occupy a position.
Another challenge facing us, which we need to discuss, is the question of our limited resources. Currently our limited funding is often drained by the need to service election-related debts, instead of vital tasks such as political education. There is no use in complaining about the uneven playing field. We need to find ways to compete against political parties with multi-million Rand election campaign budgets. People should know that we are not referring here to the ANC approach as demonstrated by its Chancellor House and PetroSA, where state resources are abused to fill party coffers.
Allow me to share some of the major issues that the office of the UDM President has been engaged in over the past few years. We have been helping many civil society institutions and the public in their interaction with Government. I would like to thank the Secretary General for his able assistance in this regard stemming from his years of experience in the civil service.
My office has also been active in important charity work; just this week the annual charity golf day that is hosted under my name raised about R1 million for charities.
I have also served for the past year on the Interim National Defence Force Service Commission, looking into the conditions of service in the SANDF. I am happy that the Minister of Defence and the President granted me this opportunity and that I could be there representing the Party. The Commission’s report will be published shortly and we are confident that the Commission’s work has already had a positive impact.
I have also been involved in extensive environmental work through the Champions of the Environment Foundation, with a view to countering climate change. In conjunction with the private sector and civil society we have pursued greening projects to plant trees in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal.
THE UDM’S ASSOCIATE STRUCTURES
Especially the youth and student structures are important because the future leaders of the Party need to be groomed by them. We cannot simply take people from the streets and appoint them to senior positions; it would be much better to groom leaders from within our structures who understands the culture and values of our Party.
From next year we hope that the Associate Structures will be much more active in the media and civil society.
Another important matter is party discipline; we have noticed that at other parties’ congresses and councils manhandling and even violence have become the order of the day.
We need to consider constitutional measures to prevent such behaviour from taking hold in the UDM. We don’t need thugs – the politics of thuggery does not belong in the UDM. Therefore we need a strong set of measures to pre-empt such thuggery.
I would like to conclude by thanking the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for allowing us to make use of their facilities. I would also like to extend our heartfelt gratitude to our sponsors who have helped make this event possible. I would also like to thank UDM Treasurer Mrs Nontenja for her able management of our funds and Jana for attending to all the logistical details that goes into such a large event. Finally, I want to thank the outgoing National Office Bearers for their dedication and commitment, which has seen us through difficult times. The newly-elected Office Bearers are expected to carry the baton and build the Party.
I thank you.