Honoured guests, members, viewers at home, ladies and gentlemen,
I am honoured to stand in front of you today, on behalf of the National Leadership, to report to back to you on our performance over the past five years.
You will recall that the UDM was established at a time when the climate was not conducive to the formation of opposition parties in South Africa. As a result, we lost many comrades, such as our first Secretary General, Sifiso Nkabinde and others, through assassinations during this period.
We should give ourselves a big round of applause for remaining dedicated and steadfast in the project of building a strong UDM that is a Political Home for All against overwhelming odds.
We have also lost many comrades since the 2010 Congress. Included in this list, is our late Deputy President, Professor Ntopile Kganyago, among others.
Fellow South Africans,
We also gather here today just over two years since our struggle icon, Tata Nelson Mandela passed away. When the struggle against injustice required leaders to stand up against overwhelming odds, Madiba was at the forefront. For me, and indeed for most of us, Madiba was a beacon of hope.
That history is known to all.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity to request that we all stand and observe a moment of silence in honour of all these great men and women.
May their Souls Rest in eternal Peace!
We meet here today on the occasion of the UDM 5th National Congress since the UDM’s inception and after we have just celebrated 18 years of our existence.
I wish to take this opportunity to thank all party structures, in particular the outgoing executive for their sterling contribution in building the UDM over the past five years. The incoming executive will have the responsibility to take thins movement, which includes the reviewing of UDM policies.
I also wish to thank our staff members both at National Office and provincial levels for their professional help and support.
I am pleased to inform you that in line with our Constitution, we have held our elective congresses after every five years. This means we have never failed in our commitment to make democracy work within our own organisation.
This meeting of the highest decision making body of our organisation provides us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the road we have travelled.
We should therefore spend the next two days doing some serious introspection and developing a clear programme of action on how to take the party forward, as proposed in our 2021 Ascendancy Profile.
There are clear indications on the ground that the party is growing, as we regularly welcome new people to the party. We should go out of our way to make new members feel at home and make use of their skills and expertise in party building.
The Ascendancy Profile proposes strategies on how to market ourselves and the best ways of reviving and strengthening our associate structures, such as Women, the Youth and Students. To achieve the goals and objectives of this Plan, we will need strong leadership and discipline at all levels.
To facilitate deliberations on the state of the organisation, state of the nation and our manifesto for the Local Government Elections, we have included all these documents in your packs. You will recall that this Congress adopted these documents yesterday.
Our Congress theme is: SAVE SOUTH AFRICA: Live the dream. We chose this theme because of the overwhelming evidence that in the ruling party government “things are falling part, and the centre cannot hold.” Economic mismanagement, corruption, crime, lawlessness and arrogance of power are the order of the day. With this theme, we are therefore saying the power to save South Africa from the ruling party’s misrule and to change the status quo is in your hands.
Fellow South Africans, Yesterday marked the end of the campaign on 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. We are proud of the contribution our members have made during this campaign in helping to build communities that are safe for our women and children. We wish to reconfirm our solidarity and commitment to the elimination of violence against women and children.
There is a phrase that has become a mantra of the ruling party: “legacy of Apartheid”. There is nobody among the thousands gathered here today, or the many more viewers at home, that cannot easily identify the scars that Apartheid has left upon our country.
But when did Apartheid become a valid excuse for the failures of the current government?
Surely we do not need to accept mediocrity, incompetence and corruption, simply because it is inflicted by a democratic government instead of a repressive regime.
I fact, quite the opposite; we should be striving for the highest standards.
We should have a government that reaches for the ideals embodied in the Constitution.
Instead, we find ourselves having to cope with the ANC’s misrule, which undermines the dream of building a better life for all.
Literally thousands of public protests occur every year across the country.
The vast majority of these are by communities frustrated by 20 years of broken promises over basic services like water and sanitation.
It is clear that more and more people are becoming disillusioned with the ruling party’s misrule.
When the Youth march into the grounds of Parliament, and protest in their tens of thousands at the Union Buildings demanding free education, it is clear what they think of this government’s failures.
From where we are sitting, it is clear that the ruling party lacks the political will to implement its 1994 election promise of free education.
Instead, they use every means possible to brutally suppress protests by sending in the police.
To make matters worse, the ruling party government prioritises elite projects such as e-tolls and trillion Rand nuclear deals over the needs of the people.
This means that the already overburdened taxpayer is being asked to foot the bill for unnecessary and wasteful projects, which are laced with corruption.
To say that we, as a nation, deserve better, is an understatement of the century.
We need a growing economy that creates jobs in order to end poverty and restore human dignity.
And yet, we are saddled with economic policy that does exactly the opposite.
Our economy needs to be stimulated and nurtured, with the state playing a decisive role in order to address past imbalances and backlogs. This can be done by investing in small business development, among other things.
It is important to remember that no meaningful empowerment of the people can occur without first addressing the lack of access to land for the majority citizens as well as the lack of access to capital.
It is for this reason that the UDM believes that South Africa needs to convene an Economic Indaba to develop a blue print for our country’s economy.
This Indaba must be similar in scale and scope to the CODESA negotiations, which resolved the basic political direction of our country.
Like CODESA, it must include all the stakeholders in society, so that we can loosen the stranglehold of the ruling elite and their dubious consultants.
We can no longer trust the ruling party with the running of our economy. For proof, one needs to look no further than President Zuma’s reckless and irresponsible decision to remove Minister Nene and the impact that decision has had on our economy.
The danger posed to society by climate change worsens the bleak picture I have sketched above. For instance, today we are facing the worst drought in this country.
While this is the state of the nation in brief, we must attend to the ways in which each of us can help to turn this situation around.
We are gathered here on the eve of the local government elections.
At this Congress we are also launching the UDM election manifesto under the theme: “Put Community First.”
However, let me hasten to add that this manifesto serves as a guide. From here, you need to go to your localities and develop manifestos that speak to the challenges facing your communities.
For us this represents one of the ways in which we can unite and steer our country back in the right direction.
The forthcoming election is our opportunity to demonstrate on a local level that there are solutions to the challenges that face us.
United in our desire to create better villages, towns and cities, we can light the way and show which policies should be applied nationally.
We have it within our power to effect changes that will result in genuine improvements in the lives of all South Africans.
There is one thing that we can all agree on: change is necessary!
In this election you are not simply choosing between one political party and another.
You can choose another five years of the same old discredited policies and poor service delivery, or you can choose change for the better.
Some will claim much has been done in the past 20 years.
But we look at reality and know that many of these accomplishments are overstated.
For instance, when the ANC government claims to have built more houses, they should admit that more people have badly-built houses. And when the ANC government claims to have provided more services, they should admit that more people are receiving bad and unreliable services.
When they claim to have built more infrastructure like roads, they should admit that it is mostly just more tolls and more potholes. To add insult to injury elite projects, like the E-tolls, funnel our taxpayers’ money out of the country.
We should be reaching for the highest goals to give expression to the spirit of the Constitution.
We must aim to build a country that unleashes its vast potential where each person irrespective of race, gender, class or geography has the opportunity and indeed, the calling! to contribute to a thriving prosperous nation. To build a nation like no other.
This local government election is our chance to show that it can be done.
Starting in the streets where we live, we can build something greater, something better, to improve the lives of our families and loved ones.
As a voter, it is up to you to set a new agenda. You have the power to say what are the real priorities; as opposed to the elite projects such as speed trains, automated tolling, etc. which contribute nothing to your life and only enrich the politically-connected.
It is time to PUT COMMUNITY FIRST by prioritising service delivery and removing the politicians and parties standing in the way of that.
Once and for all we need to firmly establish the principle that our elected councillors are there to serve the community and not the other way around.
All of us pay municipal rates, but in return most of us do not receive the services that are rightfully ours.
We have so much work to do, the need is great. But we can do this, we can rise above the current disaster in local government.
Let us vote for a party and councillors dedicated to joining hands with their communities. Let us start now, instead of waiting another 5 years.
In many municipalities the potholes outnumber the streetlamps.
It is up to you, as a voter, to demonstrate your unhappiness with incompetent and corrupt councillors and councils.
I give you my personal assurance that if we find any UDM councillors who are failing to deliver, they will be swiftly removed.
Other political parties may tolerate corrupt and incompetent councillors, but the UDM does not.
I believe that the UDM, and the councillors we are fielding in these elections, provide you with champions for your cause.
Our overriding purpose is to serve and PUT COMMUNITY FIRST.
The UDM seeks to bring about positive change and improve the quality of life in those wards and municipalities where our councillors are elected.
This manifesto introduces you to our thinking on the core principles of how local government should PUT COMMUNITY FIRST.
We are eager to meet you, at rallies or within your living rooms, to explain to you, in greater detail, our values and how we intend to serve you in your municipality.
Ultimately your UDM councillor is your voice in local government; a person that consults with the community to determine your needs, and then champions your cause in the council.
I thank you.