Bantu Holomisa, MP and UDM President’s address at the BPI Foundation’s 2019 Summit on 1 and 2 August 2019 at the Midrand Conference Centre
Topic of discussion:
“The oneness and shared success we seek and should aspire to as a new nation and developing country, while battling with deep wounds of our historical atrocities”
• Our hosts at the BPI Foundation
• Fellow speakers
• Ladies and gentlemen
1. Thank you
Thank you to the BPI Foundation for allowing me to talk to you today and share the stage with a variety of great minds discussing an interesting array of topics. It’s an honour.
2. Talking about history
To say that South Africa still bears the scars of colonialization and Apartheid is obvious; but it still bears saying. To nay-say this history and its impact on the South Africa of today is denialist and foolish.
Some say history is just that; history. But good or bad, history keeps us aware of what should never be repeated and what worked.
It also teaches us what our priorities should be. I mention this specifically, because if we had – for instance – tackled the land issue timeously, we could have avoided the entire drama that is playing out at the moment. It could have gone a long way in addressing some of the economic ills of our time.
If we keep history at the back of our minds, we know where we come from so that we can know where we are going.
The reason I make these points is that we need to think constructively about creating a prosperous country.
Yes, we must be sensitive, but we can make an active choice to not wallow in our past. We can decide to roll up our sleeves and work towards making South Africa a winning nation.
I say this, because our children and future generations will hold us responsible for the decisions we make. Each of us alive today must make the best choices possible for a prosperous South Africa.
3. Leadership in post-Apartheid South Africa
I think we started off with this project we called “The New South Africa” on the right track. But we got lost or waylaid, especially in the past ten years or so.
But let me quickly add, in all fairness, that 25 years is not a long time in terms of what established, modern democracies look like.
We might lay the blame for this ambushed project at several possible doors, but to my mind being a politician, much of the blame can be apportioned to weak and/or corrupt leadership – starting at the highest level, right down to local government.
You will agree with me that, if the commander of the army is directionless and corrupt, the lower command and troops will follow instructions; or worse, follow suit.
We see evidence of this mind-set and institutionalised corruption in the testimony we hear at both the Zondo and the Mpati Commissions. Our newspapers are flooded with tales of people in positions of power who have succumbed to wrongdoing, including those in the private sector.
Given that greediness, reward and compensation were the prime policies of past 25 years, you will find that the poor are progressively more agitated by empty promises. In some corners these policies are called deployment and patronage, but it not only ransacked government coffers in the process, it also elbowed-out people with skills and experience.
However, this behaviour has not escaped the notice of the poor. One cannot deny that, in simple terms, the poor of today is different from the poor of the past who were easily manipulated.
I think this is evidenced by the sheer number of satellite dishes one sees in the villages, townships and informal settlements. Gone are the days where the poor’s only source of information is party propaganda.
They are now more informed and better educated about their rights and the basic services they are entitled to. Even if you watch their interviews on television, you can hear that people are articulating themselves well.
South Africa has been burning for some years now, with people more aggressively protesting about service delivery.
It is worrying though that once they start resisting law enforcement, and we have already seen this happen, it looks as if we are entering the second stage of the revolution.
More often than not, anger and frustration boil over with private and government buildings and property being damaged or destroyed. In all seriousness, we are staring anarchy and lawlessness in the face.
This is where one starts to ask whether the centre is holding. Do the people who have been given a mandate to run this country, know what they are doing?
I think that South Africans are not going to wait another 30 years to read through the lies and recognise that they are being led by clueless and corrupt leaders.
One thing that is certain, when the ANC was given power in 1994, they might have been politically ready, but not in terms of technocracy and the civil service.
They were caught off guard. We know this, because some of those people, who hail from the same political party, are now subject to the commissions of inquiry.
4. Eradicating corruption
If one likens corruption to a boil, it is best to lance it, as soon as possible… even if it’s painful. It is therefore better that we have the Zondo and Mpati Commissions at this point in time – let all the pus be drained, so that we can start afresh.
The only wish I would have had, is that this process should have started sooner.
Having said that, I would also wish that these commissions be given enough time to get to the bottom of the rot and that no-one should be spared.
The next important step, to my mind, is that the guilty must be brought to book.
I made a suggestion to the President (in the recent Budget Vote on the Presidency) to have a meeting with the commissions, to assist in what I called “Phase 2” of the process. In this proposed meeting, I suggested that the President discuss with the commissions, how law enforcement agencies and the auditor general, could be involved in giving them some bite to their bark.
The final, long-lasting outcomes of these commissions could be:
1) upping the checks and balances to deter the would-be corrupt and
2) creating special instruments, like dedicated courts that only deal with corruption.
5. Is it possible to build a nation?
I want to quote a translation of an academic article that I was recently shown, written by one H.O. Terblanche about Port Elizabeth in the 1920’s and 1930’s.
“Two factors were mainly responsible for the impoverished rural Afrikaner’s trek to the city, namely rural impoverishment and urban industrialisation. Most of the poor whites were unskilled or semi-skilled workers.
White unemployment was rife in Port Elizabeth during the 1920’s and 1930’s. Only a small percentage of the whites owned their own homes. Overcrowding was a common phenomenon.
Korsten and Sidwell was in actual fact one big slum. The health conditions were shocking. Community poverty also adversely affected the urban Afrikaner as regards education.
Many impoverished Afrikaners in the city thus developed a feeling of inferiority.”
Without trying to be controversial, does this description not sound familiar? It is as if this article describes modern day South Africa, almost a century later, for blacks.
There is a lesson to be drawn from this part of the history of the Afrikaner i.e. how they managed to pull themselves up by their socks and actively did something about their problems. They had their own Marshal Plan and implemented it with great success.
They did this without fear or shame; so why is our government shy of doing the same and on the same scale? Maybe corruption is too much of a debilitating factor, but the past has proven that transforming a nation, in a relatively short space of time, is doable.
6. Hosting an Economic Indaba
One of the problems we have, in the running of our economy, is that many family owned companies have either fled our shores or have closed down, because government withdrew incentives or because their owners left because of our high crime levels. Some did not agree with the political changes after 1994.
These companies were responsible for generating and sustaining thousands and thousands of jobs. If we expect our population of 57 million people to be sustained through companies currently on the playing field, we are wasting our time.
The situation is also aggravated by the brain-drain, which, these days has no colour. We are losing far too many South Africans to other economies in the world.
These are the kind of matters which should pressurise government into taking the lead in organising an economic indaba, where all stakeholders can meet, to emerge with a Marshall Plan for the South Africa of today.
The desire to live in an equal, peaceful and prosperous South Africa is undoubtfully universal, irrespective of which political party one votes for.
The question is how do we get there.
Maybe, with the few ideas I’ve mentioned, we can achieve this.
I thank you