Mr MC Ramaphosa
Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa
Leader of Government Business in Parliament
Private Bag X1000
Dear Mr Deputy President
PROPOSED MEETING BETWEEN YOU AND THE LEADERS OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN PARLIAMENT
The above matter has reference.
On behalf of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) I congratulate you on your appointment as the Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, as well as the leader of government business in national parliament.
We are pleased to have someone of your calibre, who is widely respected as a skilful and formidable negotiator, who in 1991 as head of the Codesa negotiation team of the African National Congress (ANC), gave substance to our aim to build the South Africa we all want.
Your institutional memory will certainly contribute immensely to remind us of the kind of democracy we all want and strive for.
Whilst we agree that over the past twenty years significant progress has been made, we note with concern the stagnation and/or lack of proper leadership on important matters, some of which I cite hereunder.
Matters pertaining to our democracy and the role of political parties
1. Regular meetings of political leaders
In the past, South Africa had a dispensation where multi-party democracy was fostered through communication between government and political parties at a national level. It made for a situation where transparency and confidence were promoted – in other words there had been greater mutual trust between the cogs of the wheel that moved our country forward. As a particular hallmark of the terms of office of former Presidents Mandela and Mbeki this was done through regular meetings between the presidency and political parties.
We therefore strongly recommend that regular meetings should take place between the leaders of all political parties in parliament and the presidency to discuss matters of national importance.
2. Review of the legislation governing political party funding
Delays in resolving this matter has resulted in court action by a civic movement inviting political parties to show cause as to why new legislation, that govern the funding of political parties, cannot be introduced. Whoever will represent parliament in court will have to obtain a mandate from all political parties and not just one.
There will be a need for the political parties represented in parliament to coordinate their replies to the court papers to avoid confusion and to do everything possible to avoid the wasteful expenditure of public funds.
Regarding this matter, one is reminded that some political parties, like the UDM, have a congress resolution. We are further reminded that your party took its own resolution regarding the matter at the ANC’s 52nd conference held in Polokwane in December 2007.
Both parties have endorsed the need to have this legislation reviewed so as to make it impossible for big business or individuals to buy political clout and/or source government contracts.
It should therefore be easy to resolve the matter to avoid legal action and save money.
3. The allocation of debate time in the house The so-called “proportional” allocation of debate time in the house is sometimes difficult to explain. For instance, a “one member party” is allocated three minutes, which is the same that is allocated to a “four member party”.
At face value, this time allocation favours the majority and the official opposition. This requires proper regulation in order to ensure robust and healthy discussions that give a voice to the entire electorate.
The UDM outright rejects the current argument of the ANC whips that opposition parties depend on the ANC for debate time and/or that they are using ANC time.
It cannot be that political parties take instruction from the ruling party.
There should be clear standing regulations and presiding officers should have a formula to guide this proportional allocation of time to ensure that all parties are given enough time to make quality contributions to debates.
The UDM strongly argues for a minimum of five minutes for a “one member party” and more proportionally allocated time to those parties that have more members, in order to represent their constituencies effectively.
Issues affecting the citizenry and the country
4. Blurring the line between party and state
This is a matter of serious concern that finds more expression during electioneering where it is difficult to differentiate between state and party functions. These past elections have shown again how easy it is to use state resources to thinly veil election campaigns.
You will agree that we need to give this key issue the urgent attention it deserves in order to stop the misuse of state resources.
5. Civil disobedience and violent protest We find this last matter on our list the source of greatest worry.
In far too many instances, and increasingly so, public protests in South Africa are characterised by violent lawlessness and a crippling culture of anger which results in the destruction of private and public assets.
We must straightaway address the frustration of our people where they feel there is no other way of communicating with government and arrest the few malicious criminals who exploit this situation and incite lawlessness.
In conclusion, the UDM proposes that you convene an urgent meeting with all leaders of political parties in parliament to discuss, amongst others, the items we have raised above. Other parties may however have additional items that they would like to place on the agenda.
Should this proposal find your favour, we ask that your office organise and facilitate such regular meetings, and that it consults with other parties to ascertain which other matters they may want to discuss
We await your kind response.
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement