This document is a suggestion of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) to find a way towards the hosting of a National Convention, as agreed upon in the Co-governance Agreement for Local Government between the several political partners.
The participating political parties have agreed on four main challenges confronting South Africa i.e. poverty, unemployment, inequality and corruption, which requires that the nation unites around a strategic and fundamental interventionist programme of action. Our constitutional democracy is unitary in nature with elements of federalism.
Government, the organs of state, legislation, the role of Chapter Nine Institutions and the national fiscus, fall within the national sphere. Accordingly, and if any strategic intervention is to be made, to aggressively address the four challenges, such intervention must be done at a national level – both in terms of form and content.
After our meeting on 7 August 2016, of the Congress of the People, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), the United Front (UF), as well as the UDM, we developed a framework to form the basis of any discussions about co-operation and/or coalition. The aim of this proposal was to guide these parties in case they were approached by either the African National Congress (ANC) and/or the Democratic Alliance (DA) about the possibility of forming part of governments in certain municipalities. Our goal was to obtain a commitment to finding answers to the various challenges facing South African on the short, medium and long term. There is no denial that some national issues impact daily on how local government operates, e.g. water, land, electricity, environment, etc.
During that period of negotiation, other parties joined this initiative, such as the African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP). Our discussions culminated in an agreement that was signed with the DA.
The ANC was however not interested in engaging with us about our wish-list.
The EFF, in the end, did not form part of any coalitions, but they indicated that they would support other parties in countering the ANC in municipal councils.
The coalition partners agreed that after municipal governments were put in place, we would meet again to map the way forward in implementing the goals we articulated in our agreement. Some of the key issues, that were identified during out talks, were however not within the ambit of local government, but could only be addressed at a national level.
As was articulated in our co-governance agreement: “These challenges include, but are not confined to, land reform, electoral reform, education and how it is financed, the independence of Chapter 9 Institutions, and the professionalization of the civil service.”
One of the stated goals was to hold a National Convention to address these and other issues of national importance. There is no doubt that the agreements that culminated in the new dispensation were not cast in stone, they served a certain purpose at that point in the time. There are however still challenges that impact today and we need to review those decisions. An evaluation of the past 22 years, and identifying inherent deficiencies in the management of government, is a complex exercise that needs to have stakeholders give input so that we arrive at a holistic solution to South Africa’s problems.
Some of the frustrations are people express with civil disobedience and the general anarchy are attributed to the agreements that were made at Codesa. The complaints about the lack of economic emancipation, struggles to get access funding, as well as land and property issues are well documented. We hear calls such as that the ANC sold out the people and that some of the concessions made, were not in the interest of the disenfranchised masses.
THE PURPOSE OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTION
A National Convention will provide a platform for stakeholders from all sectors of society, and South Africans in general, to find each other and map a way towards:
• Economic emancipation of all South Africans;
• Eliminating corruption
• Land reform and property ownership;
• Bolstering Chapter Nine Institutions;
• Basic and Higher Education
• Health and social welfare
• Professionalization of the civil service;
• Electoral reform;
• Legislation governing the funding of political parties; and
• Any other matters of national interest.
We cannot deny that many policies have been developed and then chopped-and-changed. As an example, let us look at the Reconstruction and Development (RDP) programme right through to the latest National Development Plan (NDP). But this constant shifting of the goal-posts and the tensions between government, labour and business, scuppers implementation time and again.
PARTICIPANTS AT THE NATIONAL CONVENTION
To achieve the objective of maximum participation in the proposed National Convention and to ensure buy-in, the participation of the following participants is envisaged (but are not limited to):
• Government departments (at all three tiers);
• Parliament and provincial legislatures;
• The National Planning Commission;
• All Parastatals;
• Chapter Nine Institutions;
• Financial institutions like the Reserve Bank;
• National Development Council;
• Professional Associations and Governing Bodies;
• The Judiciary;
• Religious communities;
• The media
• Traditional institutions and bodies;
• Labour and unions;
• Civil Society and Non-Governmental Organisations;
• Institutions of higher learning (Intellectual community) and student bodies;
• Special interest groups and issue based organisations;
• Women and youth based organisations;
• Political parties; and
• The South African citizenry.
Certainly, to resolve the chronic challenges confronting our nation, we need to tap into our collective wisdom. Codesa delivered political freedom, but more still has be done with regards to economic emancipation and our economic policies in general. For instance, the divergent opinions of business, labour and government creates a situation where there is no consensus on what kind of macro-economic policy South Africa should have.
The intention must be to ensure that all South Africans can participate fully in determining their future. In this regard, the National Convention will be a tool to ensure maximum and meaningful participation of all stakeholders.
COORDINATION OF THE NATIONAL CONVENTION: NOT ANOTHER TALK-SHOP
For a proper and a productive dialogue at a forum of this magnitude, the following important points must be considered:
• As the initiators of project, the participating political parties, should have a meeting with Leader of Government Business in Parliament, Mr Cyril Ramaphosa, as soon as possible to unpack the idea of a National Convention and garner government support.
• A National Convention Planning Committee (NCPC) should be appointed and convened to develop a framework to guide all participants at the proposed National Convention and plan what form it should take.
• The NCPC should meet and discuss the appointment of an independent person with a certain gravitas as its chairperson. For instance, a person such as retired Chief Justice Ngcobo could be considered as a person who would ensure impartiality and who has the necessary knowledge and wisdom to make sure that participants, with divergent and/or conflicting ideas, can engage constructively and reach consensus.
• This is a long-overdue exercise where we can make introspection as a nation. Government must fund the proposed National Convention, because a sponsorship model will not work. A scenario where a company could sponsor the event, but would also wish to be a participant, might be accused of “buying” influence to ensure a certain outcome.
• It would be realistic to have the proposed National Convention somewhere in 2017/18.
• The proposed National Convention cannot be just another talk-shop or a useless bosberaad. Should consensus emerge on the issues discussed, immediate action (with attending time-frames) should be taken to ensure that that the National Convention’s resolutions are implemented. For instance, if there is legislation that needs to be changed, Government must set the ball rolling as soon as possible. Such resolutions should not be subjected to more ideological debates in Parliament and changes to existing legislation should be ratified without delay.
• The National Convention will also have to mandate the NCPC to manage and monitor the implementation of its resolutions.
• The NCPC must always accountable to the National Convention, in other words, the people of South Africa.
We need to capture the lost ground. South Africa has been on the slippery slope with scandal after scandal, even at the highest office, and we need to reignite South Africans’ pride in their Country and confidence in government. We need to convince the world that South Africa is a well-run state and a worthwhile investment destination and not a junk status nation.
The National Convention must emerge with a comprehensive blue print for a flourishing South Africa. We must remain committed to the Country and its citizenry and always put South Africa first.
Prepared by Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP – UDM President