Presentation by the President of the United Democratic Movement and Member of the South African Parliament, Mr Bantu Holomisa at the SwissCham Southern Africa (SCSA) Chamber of Commerce – Zunfthaus zur Schmiden, Marktgasse, Zurich, 17 November 2015
The Chairman, Mr George Umbricht,
Her Excellency the South African Ambassador to Switzerland,
Ambassador and Mrs Staehelin
Dignified Guests and participants from all corners of society, Ladies and gentlemen
1. Introduction: On South Africa entering the global village after apartheid
I wish to thank the former UN Ambassador and his wife Irene, the founder of the Ubuntu Foundation, for inviting me to address you and for facilitating my trip.
The topics I was asked to discuss are the role of opposition of South Africa and the economic relationship between China and Europe.
I was privileged in 1993 to accompany Mr. Nelson Mandela to the United Nations to convince the world that apartheid was to be a thing of the past and therefore they should start lifting sanctions against the Republic of South Africa (RSA).
Our success brought high and reasonable expectations that, amongst others, investment into the South African economy would come in droves. It however had not been as easy as we thought. Instead, some companies like Anglo American and Old Mutual pulled the plug and invested off-shore.
Although it made great sense to take advantage of the diverse global economy, in particular under the conditions of globalisation, disinvestment from the South African economy negatively affected our developmental path.
Politically this reality had its own challenges; it created the perception that those who invested in our economy during the apartheid years were no longer interested in investing in the new South African democracy.
2. The role and viewpoint of the UDM: “Government must do more”
The United Democratic Movement’s (UDM’s) policy thrust is that: “Government must do more”. In order for government to create a conducive environment for economic growth, more has to be done, amongst others, to;
• Create more friends with capital for direct investment;
• Heavily invest in social capital, in particular, skills and knowledge development through a qualitative education system whilst building a healthy nation;
• Invest in sector-based planning and implementation, including the creation of sector-specific banks to provide financial assistance to historically disadvantaged groups and individuals;
• Provide more funding to facilitate new entrants into the local and global mainstream of productive economy, targeting those who have been locked outside of economic activism;
• Develop a funding model that will make it possible for historically disadvantaged communities to participate in their own socio-economic upward mobility; and
• Invest in social and economic infrastructure across the entire country and not only in certain pockets should be an over-arching work of government in creating a conducive environment for investment.
In this regard, the UDM makes a clarion call to countries such as our host, Switzerland, and other developed nations – in particular those with diplomatic ties with South Africa – to join the developmental path of the RSA. We need you to provide the necessary capacitation of the would-be captains of industry and to help upgrade our technological capacity so that it is able to compete and cooperate with advanced nations.
3. The UDM on clean governance
We have from the UDM’s inception in 1997 upheld the principle and practice of clean governance and we have fought relentlessly against the misuse of the public purse. Our reputation on this score is beyond question.
We will continue batting on this wicket until our country is free of the scourge of corruption and, for instance, the elitist projects that do not benefit the downtrodden masses, but are designed to benefit the connected few. We firmly understand that the country and its people comes first and not the other way around.
In this regard we shall, as we have always done, advocate for the supremacy of our constitution, the defense of our democracy, the separation of powers, as well as promoting the checks and balances. The UDM will also lobby for electoral reform where more power is placed with the electorate where they directly elect their public representatives.
4. The role of opposition parties in South Africa
Programme Director, there seems to be a misconception in the so-called developing world that the role of opposition parties, as the name suggests, is limited to opposing everything and anything an incumbent government proposes.
Contrary to this, in emerging democracies like ours, the opposition has played and should continue to play an increasingly important role in shaping policy agendas, conducting civic education and fighting corruption – singly or in alliance with other entities.
In South Africa we have a vigilant opposition that works with all other institutions and constitutional bodies established to strengthen democracy. Without this vigilant opposition and the independent media, constitutional institutions like the Public Protector and the independent judicial system, our democracy would have already been weakened or have failed.
The opposition has in some instances worked as a collective on specific issues and where they differ, political parties go it alone.
Our multi-party democracy plays a fundamental role in ensuring that opposition parties are able to discharge their responsibilities as their existence is secured by the Bill of Rights.
It is however a fact that South African opposition parties are undermined and vilified. The ruling elite continue to dig deep into the public purse and use official resources to out-compete opposition parties. They also vulgarise majority rule to mean arrogance and a careless attitude towards the people.
Just recently, the State President said his political party comes first, before the country. The opposition must remain vigilant so that the country is not turned into a faction of a political party. Political parties, under these circumstances, become victims of political restrictions designed by the incumbent regime.
Nevertheless, and within this context, the role of the opposition is without doubt critical and it serves a very important function.
Centrally to the role of opposition is to hold those in government accountable for its commissions or omissions. It must at all times be a watchdog making sure that the government acts within the scope of the law, and pointing out failings such as corruption and nepotism, which undermine freedom and democracy.
In the same vein, the opposition should present itself as a viable alternative to the incumbent government or be a government in waiting with all the mechanisms in place to take the reins of power. This cannot be over-stated because, when government lets the voters down, citizens should know that the country is in safe hands.
Opposition parties should seek to structure and influence alternative international relations that foster cooperation on matters of common interests, whilst putting the nation’s national interests first.
In this regard, South Africa should go back to basics and do away with a one-sided approach to international relations, which allows one side of the global community to dominate economic activities within the country.
Our point of departure should be the history of our struggle and conducting an audit of the friends who invested in our democracy. This should lead to redefined partnerships for development.
5. South Africa in the global village
Today, the world is dominated by the powerful economy of China. Almost all nations are establishing economic relations with this giant. South Africa, as a member of the global village, has not many options but to join other nations to trade with China, Europe and other countries. Lately, we have seen members of Brics, like India, joining South African markets.
In this regard, and consistent with the realities of the day, both Europe and China have a key role to play in building the economies of developing countries, including that of South Africa. Even strong economies like the United States of America are growing trade relations with China.
However, it is important that a high quality dialogue between policy makers from China and European Union takes place to overcome their institutional differences and pave the way for fruitful economic cooperation that will benefit other countries.
Nations must be able to identify their interests and, based on such, be able to structure socio-economic relations that are mutually beneficial. This will mitigate possibilities of unfair dominance by either side.
The global village must bring people of all nations together for a better world.
I thank you.