The debate about political realignment has long been in the minds of many people in this country. It has been discussed publicly and privately by writers, political parties, and other individuals. Also over the years we have seen developments such as the emergence of the DA, the dissolution of the NNP and its absorption into the ANC, as well as the formation of new political parties. All of these are signs of the impetus for political realignment. Those initiatives may not have been as effective as their architects may have hoped, but realignment is a process not an event.
The UDM feels it will not be in the best interests of all South Africans if the debate is only about political alliances. Any serious discussion about realigning the political landscape should not be confined only to political parties, but should also embrace stakeholders from civil society. The re-alignment phenomenon, it must be clearly understood, is not an alliance of political parties. It is a re-writing of the political map, a re-alignment of ideas, the regrouping of people around new concepts that have been thrown up by the changes that have taken place. However, we must thank the people behind this current initiative because it is more inclusive than many of the previous efforts. The UDM welcomes the revival of this important discussion about political realignment.
The people who have gathered for this convention reflect the demographics of this country, representing the various formations of our society. There are those who couldn’t be present for this gathering due to a lack of resources, but who pin their hopes on the possibility that there may emerge from this convention a statement of intent towards addressing the social ills of this country.
Let us remind each other that the impact of the social forces that transformed a totalitarian racist regime to a democratic social order – founded on the most progressive principles to be enshrined in a bill of rights in any country in modern times – shook the social foundations that had hitherto provided the basis and rationale for the alignment of political groupings which characterized our political landscape prior to 1994.
Our point of departure in nation building must not be an ideological paradigm predicated on intolerant nationalism. This would be an unfortunate repeat of the discredited and failed social orders such as apartheid and communism in the former eastern block countries. This view has been propounded by Dr Van Zyl Slabbert in his book.
THE STATE OF THE NATION
Our history demands an awareness and willingness from all South Africans to fight the resurgence of racial hostilities and conflicts. It is in recognition of this historical legacy of our society that the UDM has committed itself to the vision of a new South Africa.
Our analysis of the changing socio–economic-political order in South Africa since 1994, indicates that there will be discernible political shifts along interest group divides, distinguished by common concerns and aspirations. This process will move towards the crystallization of two major political streams, which express the ethos of the beneficiaries of the established order, on the one hand, and the aspirations of the emerging major social groupings that are marginalized at present, on the other hand. This will necessitate the emergence of two major political formations representing these interest groups.
The group of beneficiaries is composed among others of those in position of power who implement policies skewed towards the interests of a select elite. It is this crowd today which runs the government from outside government structures even to the extent of who should get tenders and contracts and who not. The same style of government in the last 14 years has actually produced multi-millionaires and billionaires who have been cuing for state tenders irrespective of their ability to delivery, but on the other hand the products and services they have delivered have often left much to be desired. It is no wonder that today those successful deployees-turned-businessmen can donate individually R10 million to their party which enriched them with taxpayer money. We can expect as we move forward that it is these people who will resist change and pay in order to discredit this convention.
The marginalized groups we are talking about are those sections of the population that have been unable to participate significantly in the economy for decades. Those groups are losing hope because daily their socio-economic suffering increases. It is these people who hoped that after 1994 there would be a clear-cut programme to uplift them. Instead we have seen a new culture being introduced, a culture of dependence and handouts, which has been characterized by the politics of patronage. For example, in order to get a particular service, or RDP house, or employment, you need to belong to party X, and in the case of tenders you need to ‘donate’ a certain percentage back to that political party. It promotes marginalization and discrimination if a ruling party deploys only its own cadres to head Chapter 9 institutions and the top structures of the civil service. The same policy is applied in the parastatals. It is a further marginalization of the people in the country if the ruling party deploys only its own cadres to head businesses. That is precisely why it is so easy currently for state resources to be used to prop up the ruling party, for example the R11 million that was donated to the ANC in the PetroSA/Oilgate scandal. You don’t have to be a rocket science to see that this is a form of institutionalized corruption where there is a deliberate web to siphon off state money to benefit a particular party.
This strategy of marginalizing the rest of the country from participating in the economy has been exacerbated by the ruling party’s failure to distinguish between the role of the party and the role of government. As a result of the blurring of the roles of party and government that when there is conflict in the ruling party, it spills over into government and service delivery suffers. All tiers of Government have been paralysed by these divisions in the ruling party. Squabbles have erupted at the SABC, the National Intelligence Agency, provincial administrations and many municipalities. Not to mention the systematic campaign to undermine and devalue institutions of the democratic state we have witnessed, which resulted in the establishment of the Hefer and Khampepe Commissions of Inquiry.
There is therefore a compelling need for the nation to periodically meet, as we are doing at this convention, to do a prognosis and reflect on strategies to address our national challenges. One thing is certain, the strategy of giving one political party the mandate to address our national challenges has been a failure. Nor can we fold our arms and do nothing whilst people are engaging in cronyism, nepotism and corruption. We can’t look the other way just because the people committing these crimes against our society are hiding behind the ruling party’s liberation credentials.
When we talk of the ANC, we must understand that there are certain emotional attachments for many people, because it led the Struggle that liberated everybody including the erstwhile oppressors. But equally so we have a right to raise questions when we witness unscrupulous people hijacking the democratic project to enrich themselves, break the law and loot the resources of the country. Indeed we can no longer say that the trust that was given to the ruling party as custodian of our Constitution is still deserved, when they embark on campaigns aimed at undermining aspects of the democratic order, such as the judiciary just because they want the judiciary to pronounce a verdict that is acceptable to the palace.
In all our discussions in this debate our point of departure should be the recommitment to the principle of improving the quality of lives of the people of South Africa as a national objective agreed to by all parties during the negotiation process prior to 1994. It is particularly important since nearly 15 years into democracy research by credible institutions indicate that the gap between rich and poor is widening.
If we follow this as a guideline, we will emerge from this convention as a group of South Africans, to send a strong message that this convention is not only about the needs of the elite, or angry people for that matter, contrary to what the ruling party’s leadership and some analysts have claimed. Focusing on the marginalization of the citizens in this country, as well as resisting anarchist lawless tendencies, are not elitist or exclusive exercises. You can’t continue to use these citizens, including the poorest of the poor, as voting cattle, but when you get a mandate to govern, you forget about them.
How does the ruling party reconcile its urban-biased policies, for instance subsidizing urban housing for the poor, but forget to cater on a similar scale for the needs of the rural communities? A responsible government would have been expected to engage the citizens in the rural areas, some of whom were bundled there because of the old apartheid policies, to determine what their needs are. Perhaps it may not be subsidized housing, but rather irrigation schemes.
Even those in the urban areas, such as the squatter camps along the N2 in Cape Town who have been there since the 1980s, do not receive the services that they require. That community has been reduced to a political football between the ruling party at national and provincial level and local government under the opposition, but their urgent housing needs remain unaddressed. That is why we have seen in the past few years all over the country how frustrated communities have resorted to barricading roads and acts of public unrest because of poor service delivery.
It should never be forgotten that our democratic Constitution seeks to guarantee our freedom, but this can only be achieved if the socio-economic environment allows the Bill of Rights to become a reality for all South Africans. Political freedom, without social and economic freedom is a hollow concept. The question that confronts us is: Has the political freedom gained in 1994 translated into social and economic freedom?
We must deliberately measure our progress since 1994, because true freedom is not a once-off event but an ongoing process. The UDM understands that the growth of freedom depends on certain basic conditions that affect citizens’ physical ability but are also directly linked to their dignity, including the following:
• Jobs. Without productive employment and a decent living wage people will not be able to experience the fruits of freedom. In the long term, food security can only be achieved and hunger beaten if people have jobs.
• Education. Without knowledge and skills people cannot make informed decisions and achieve their goals, and so enhance their livelihoods.
• Health. People need to be healthy and have adequate health care in order to reach their full potential and share in the benefits of a democratic society.
• Security. People who feel under siege from criminals in their homes, neighbourhoods and places of work cannot fully concentrate on pursuing their aspirations.
• Property ownership. Without ownership of land and property people are unable to participate actively in the economic and social life of the country.
The architects of international institutions such as the World Trade Organisations (WTO) and even many developing countries like Brazil, China and India recognise the responsibility that they have towards their citizens and intervene to protect their domestic jobs and businesses. A Government that proposes anything less does not care about its people, and is not willing to accept responsibility for their welfare and prosperity.
Whilst Apartheid undermined the majority’s dignity and freedom, the current levels of unemployment, poverty, crime and HIV/AIDS are taking many South Africans back to that same state of hardship and suffering experienced under Apartheid.
The lack of coherent policy priorities to address these imbalances and backlogs, has led to the loss of hope by many South Africans.
As a result of these contradictions in the implementation of policies South Africans are suspicious and mistrust Government, because of perceptions that it is not equitably distributing the resources of the country. There is an overwhelming view that there has never been a consensus on a macro-economic policy that can transform the economy in a manner that will create and spread wealth wider and improve the lot of the disadvantaged majority. There are, in particular, concerns about the inadequacies and contradictions of the fiscal and industrial policies. As a nation can we continue to allow the Minister of Finance and the Reserve Bank Governor to determine our economic fate exclusively on the basis of a narrow focus on inflation?
This convention would’ve failed in its objective if it cannot resolve that there is a need for South Africans to meet again to discuss economic policy. We must resist the danger that economic policy will be determined by the ruling party’s donors. South Africans were too relaxed after 1994, thinking that there would be “jobs for all” as the ruling party promised. But the moment that it ascended to the Union Buildings it produced strange policies that led to jobless growth.
There is a tendency to label people as ‘leftist’ when they call for the Government to do more for the people of this country. But when the Afrikaners were uplifted by their Government, it wasn’t called ‘leftist’. When the developed countries of the world subsidise their local agriculture and industry with trillions of dollars it is not called ‘leftist’. Just recently the governments of the US and Europe have intervened in their economies to the tune of hundreds of billions of dollars to rescue private banks, but they have not been labelled ‘leftist’. It is ridiculous to suggest that our government should fold its arms when millions of South Africans are wallowing in poverty, because to uplift them would be so-called ‘leftist’.
Above all South Africans want an accountable, ethical and incorruptible government.
A NEW POLITICAL PARTY?
There is talk that this convention might culminate in the launching of a new political party in December this year. The UDM views this convention as the first phase in a process. Aside from the threat to our constitutional democracy that we are discussing at this convention, there are those that are looking for a political home. We should encourage those who want to launch a new political party in the meanwhile to do so and to publish their platform. The second phase would be a bigger national convention after the elections – which is as inclusive as possible – where likeminded parties could meet as equals to discuss how we can build a strong new movement which would articulate the issues arising from this convention.
THREATS TO A NEW PARTY: PLAYING FIELD NOT LEVEL
Indications are that the ruling party will not tolerate the launching of a new party; disrupting meetings and declaring no-go areas etc. This hostile environment was once experienced by the UDM when violence was used to deter people from joining the party. Added to this was a deliberate blackout by the public broadcaster of UDM policy positions when it was launched.
Perhaps after a new political party has been launched it should delegate a representative to sit on the Multi-Party Forum steering committee, which has been engaging the IEC on a number of issues to level the playing field for the election. To assist the new party, the resolutions – that were adopted by all political parties after the IEC conference last year – are attached to this document.
Our engagement with the IEC is informed by the AU and SADC concerns about electoral processes in various countries, where election results have been disputed, sometimes even leading to violence and civil war.
Those who form this new party will discover that one of the biggest inhibiting factors is lack of access to the public broadcaster in order to publish their policies and positions. They will discover that they will be lucky to get four minutes on national news to present their manifesto to the nation during the election period, yet the SABC will give the ruling party’s manifesto launch and major rallies hours of live coverage. An abuse of state resources that even the old National Party never committed. Even recently the ANC Secretary General and President both were allowed to abuse the SABC to speak to the nation live in order to address party squabbles.
The other major handicap that the new party will find is the hesitance of the IEC to implement changes that the political parties have identified as inhibiting factors to multi-party democracy; the only stakeholder they take seriously is the ruling party. They have so far failed to arrange a meeting between themselves, the SABC, ICASA and the political parties to discuss the levelling of the playing field, as they promised to do earlier this year.
Indeed they have failed dismally so far to come clean on what role the National Intelligence Agency is playing in the awarding of tenders to companies involved in the running of the elections. Nor have they convinced us that the IEC is insulated from Government influence through the Department of Home Affairs.
This issue of the IEC is one area that political parties should all take seriously. What is the point of endorsing the IEC Commissioners when they do not listen to stakeholder concerns? This convention would be committing a grave mistake if it did not pronounce itself strongly on this matter. The IEC has despite our concerns gone ahead and started appointing people to run the elections that belong to the tripartite alliance.
Some of the people who might be forming this new political party, may have an experience of how things were done in the ruling party, such as the hiring of venues and catering, and the printing of propaganda material under the guise of government information, rolling out food parcels that after the election disappear again. This abuse of state resources to promote the ruling party must stop.
If we fail to address the IEC being embedded in Government, as well as the behaviour of the SABC, all the issues we raise at this convention will be for naught. Collectively we may need to ask for a High Court/Constitutional Court to review whether the rights of all are being respected. We need guarantees before the next election; we can’t allow South Africans to be kept in the dark about the policies and views of parties other than the ruling party, as if we are in exile in our own country.
In everything we are discussing here, we need to realise that time is a major issue. Two major factors can take us out of this dilemma: speed and control of the process. The masses are waiting to here from us on how do we rescue this country from the embarrassing situation we find ourselves in, when the ruling party violates such basic principles such as accountability, consultation, inclusiveness, respect and decency.
South Africa is at a crossroad; due to the situation explained above. As we have converged here with a view to seek solutions to the challenges facing the nation, it would be important to emerge with a message of hope for the people of South Africa. The bottom-line is that the masses of this country are vulnerable. They have been treated shabbily and used as voting cattle. This should not just have been a meeting where we spoke and then nothing came of it. It is time to turn the page. We need to ask ourselves how our discussions here will affect our actions in five year’s time. Thus we need to develop a plan of action, with specific steps and deadlines.
As a way forward we know that the immediate task before us is to prepare for the elections next year. We need to provide answers on how we will cooperate as political parties to ensure that those elections will be free and fair. The levelling of the playing field will necessitate that the IEC need to speedily convene a meeting of political party leaders to answer whether it will be business as usual as far as the SABC, the involvement of NIA, and the capturing of election results are concerned.
The other immediate issue confronting some of the people at this convention, is for those who intend launching a political party in December, to be given the time to do so. But in the meantime they must familiarise themselves with the ins and outs regarding the upcoming elections.
The issues that have been identified for discussion at this convention are relevant to all political parties. The resolutions taken here reflect the views of the nation and it is incumbent upon every political party to decide how those views will be reflected in their policies. I dare say that even the ruling party should take note of the resolutions of this convention.
Since the Polokwane Conference of the ruling party there has been tremendous pressure from the public asking why we in the opposition do not form a strong alternative to the ruling party. It is a debate that has dominated public and private discussions. The truth is that we can’t just bundle a group of political parties together at short notice because we represent specific voters and mandates. The 2009 election is near; if we had started this convention process in January this year we would’ve been in a better position, but now time is against us.
However the following scenarios may be looked at:
a. Come up with a cooperation model, without losing the identity of the political parties, but work together under one umbrella in the election.
b. Another scenario would be to remain as separate parties, but cooperate on issues raised in the Multi-Party Forum, such as electoral processes.
c. Electoral pacts are also a possibility, where political parties agree not to contest against each other, and ask their supporters in certain areas to vote for their partner in the pact.
d. Political parties can also contest the election separately but consider coalitions after the election.
e. Another scenario would be to disband all the likeminded parties and create one new political entity to contest the upcoming election, but given that parties operate under electoral and conference mandates between elections, that is unlikely.
Whatever scenario is chosen, all political parties need to promote certain common campaign messages, such as the need for electoral reform and the need to call a CODESA-type indaba on the economy and education.
All of us can state those objectives in our election manifestoes and tell the nation that collectively we will ensure that these reforms will be implemented before the 2012 local government elections.
There is no harm for each and every party to have a common thread in our manifestoes to say that never again should this country be dominated by a two-thirds majority, in order to counter the ills we’ve identified and improve service delivery. South Africans need to spread the vote to promote a balance of power, and ensure that the interests of our diverse society are reflected in the legislatures and Executive.
CONVENTION BEYOND 2009 ELECTION
Now that we have started a serious debate in this country about political realignment and have embarked upon the first phase of achieving that objective, the UDM would propose the following steps to advance this debate:
a. Engage in informal discussion with all stakeholders, as we have started this weekend, which will begin to identify the various policy positions that are needed to improve the lot of South Africans.
b. If there is an emerging consensus to establish an alternative government, we should establish a Committee of Parties with equal status (it will need to include other stakeholders in society such as Labour, Business, Traditional institutions, Youth, Women, NGOs, etc).
c. That Committee of Parties should, in consultation with their leaders, work out the following:
i. a vision
ii. a possible vehicle to drive the process, including the question of leadership
iii. areas of agreement and disagreement on our values.
d. If there is consensus, the Committee should call a Summit of Leaders to send a message that we are serious about political realignment in South Africa. It is at this Summit that the leaders may decide on what the next stage in the process will be.
e. The UDM view is that an appropriate format for discussions will be a second bigger National Indaba/Convention of Political Parties and sectors of society.
f. Such an Indaba/Convention can set up Commissions to deliberate on different policy areas.
g. The Commissions would report their findings to the Indaba/Convention, indicating differences and agreements on key areas and principles underlying party platforms.
h. It would be the responsibility of the Indaba/Convention to take resolutions, on the most important aspects of this process, which would be a commitment to an accepted common vision of an alternative government.
If consensus is reached during the course outlined above, it is conceivable that the situation could result in a new political formation that would pursue the objective of an alternative government.
We call upon South Africans in all political formations, civil society, the business sector, academic etc. to take stock and concede that we should leave the baggage of the past behind and embrace the opportunity to carry our society forward and write a new chapter in our history.
We should commend the ANC for having been the mother of non-racialism. To demonstrate their bona fides they even welcomed the members of the dissolved National Party of PW Botha into their ranks. However we have noted the double standards in Parliament and public debates where they would vent their anger about the policies of the past by blaming the DA, yet the architects of apartheid have been rewarded inside the ANC and Government with cosy positions.
As we meet here the emphasis should be on the Constitution of the country, rather than wasting our energy on who owns the Freedom Charter etc. We have a fresh founding document of democracy that we need to embrace and protect.
The UDM remains committed to multi-party democracy, and we feel that this is an opportune time to turn the page on one-party dominance. May God bless us all to read from the same page and take our country forward.