The United Democratic Movement (UDM) unveiled its list of candidates in Johannesburg on Monday as the party prepares for the April 14 General Elections.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Today I am pleased to introduce to you the top national candidates for the UDM in the coming elections.

My colleagues reflect the demographics of South Africa in a multitude of ways. It is a yet another indication of the UDM’s continued commitment to be a political home for all South Africans. Aside from its representative nature in terms of race and culture, this group also displays a balanced mix of experience, youth, technical skills and political experience. The provinces and regions of the entire country are well represented.

We have retained our established skills in Parliament and also promoted people who have shown leadership within our structures. In addition, we have gone a step further and made space for new faces; not just for people with specialist skills but also for a younger generation of leaders.

You will note that once again there are a number of women represented, who have gained prominent positions.

I want to emphasise that my colleagues are here on merit and because they are committed to participating in the new South Africa.

We have attained such a high degree of representivity because the UDM is a vibrant party; we continue to attract very talented and dedicated individuals from all walks of life and from all regions in the country.

Individually and collectively I am confident that my colleagues here, along with our other candidates, will play a meaningful and decisive role in Parliament. They will work tirelessly in Parliament to promote the policies of the UDM and to faithfully represent all the people of South Africa.

I believe that my colleagues will help to restore the dignity and integrity of Parliament, which has been undermined in the past few years by executive interference, ruling party stubbornness and the betrayal of the electorate through floor-crossing. These unbecoming spectacles have all played a significant part in the growing voter apathy that we witness throughout the country.

But I want to urge voters not to lose faith in the system, because we haven’t. Despite many challenges, your vote is still the most powerful democratic tool you possess. Withdrawing from the system will not achieve anything positive. I know that many people believe their decision not to vote is a good way to reflect there disappoint and anger. But the sad truth is that a no-vote is a vote of confidence, because you are indicating to the parties you disagree with that you don’t disagree enough to vote for someone else.

The UDM is a young party but values Parliament to promote policies we believe are in South Africa’s best interest. One such example is infrastructure development, which we placed at the heart of our economic policy more than three years ago. It is interesting to note that despite initial howls of derision from the ANC, infrastructure development is gaining prominence in their policies. The UDM will continue to improve its Parliamentary and policy performance because we believe that there are still many challenges that face the country and that we can help provide solutions.

The level of accountability that we currently witness in Parliament is unacceptably low. The ANC uses their majority to steamroll their pet policies that are not always to the benefit of the electorate. The response of the opposition parties to this action has been varied.

Some have adopted the strategy of voting against everything. If it moves they vote against it, whether the legislation “deserves better” or not. Strangely on the one occasion, the floor-crossing, when the voice of the electorate was under threat they enthusiastically supported the ANC in not only passing the law but later amending the Constitution when the law was rejected by the Constitutional Court. This approach to opposition politics has clearly not advanced parliamentary accountability.

Yet others have adopted the approach of climbing into the back pocket of the ANC, which supposedly gives them “a voice” in Government no matter how vast the gulf between their beliefs. This approach to opposition politics decreases accountability.

Still there is another approach of running around without a policy and talking of integrity, whilst the very act of establishing that party was based on betraying the voters by using the floor-crossing and taxpayer money to fund the exercise. This style of opposition politics is probably good for someone’s personal profile but won’t enhance accountability.

But there are still honourable people in many parties, including the ruling party. And we have learned that with dedication and hard work it is possible to find solutions and alter the course of the ruling party. When it is necessary, and when other options have been exhausted, then we oppose vigorously, even to the highest court in the country. But we have learned that crying wolf ten times a day has little effect aside from making one look and sound like a hoarse poodle.

The pragmatic policy-driven approach of our Parliamentary work will continue in the coming five years under the capable leadership of my colleagues sitting here today. They can and will play a meaningful role in enhancing accountability in Parliament. Our Manifesto is the product of intensive and ongoing policy development over the past four years. We are convinced that we can make meaningful contributions on the major challenges facing the country at the moment. We believe that this team is more than adequately qualified to champion these policies.

We are all driven by an immense passion to ensure that accountability in Parliament is improved. And here I speak not only of the accountability of the Executive to Parliament, or of the accountability of the ruling party to the opposition. I also specifically include our personal commitment of being accountable to the people who vote for the UDM.

We will not betray the trust of our voters.

So without further ado allow me to introduce the top candidates for the UDM in the coming elections.