by Bantu Holomisa (02 July 2000)

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This document is intended for discussion by UDM structures at all levels nationally in preparation for the National Council (NC) and provincial congress meetings where the issues raised herein will be debated and culminate in the National Congress next year which will endorse the final version of this discussion document.

The NC meeting will take place in Bloemfontein on 1st July 2000.  On 2nd July 2000 the Council will convert to a local government workshop.  The provincial chairpersons are required to ensure that all delegates are given copies of this discussion document before they come to the council meeting.

The document contains a timetable charting the way forward for the UDM up to the year 2004, as well as local government election guidelines.

At the council meeting the delegates will fill the vacant posts of Secretary General, National Treasurer and National Organiser.  The council will recall that with the death of Sifiso Nkabinde our Acting Secretary General was appointed to fill his vacancy.

With the deployment of the National Organiser and the Acting Secretary General to legislatures it was resolved that these positions be filled with permanent officers who would devote their full-time attention to these duties.  No decision has been taken by the National Management Committee (NMC) on the filling of the vacant post of Deputy President.  The view of the NMC is that this issue be deferred to the National Congress next year, unless the Council advises otherwise.  Council will recall that Roelf Meyer retired from active politics in January 2000, although he remains a member of the Party.

The quality of candidates that will be elected to these positions is of crucial importance because they carry important and demanding responsibilities.  Some of the problems we have, emanate from the absence of suitable full-time officers in these key positions.

The UDM was not founded on individual personalities’ sudden whims that were triggered by an impulse to dabble in the national politics of South Africa. Its birth was a political response to a historical need to fill a political vacuum that was created by the tremors of a momentous social revolution that had taken place. 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 to1994. The tumultuous shift of individual and group attitudes created a magnetic vortex that sucked in people from diverse social, economic, political, racial and ethnic backgrounds, into a melting pot which spawned the UDM.

So forceful was the call of historical destiny that the UDM had to hit the ground running and pit its untested infant strengths against established veteran formations in a general election, within twenty months of its launching. We acquitted ourselves admirably in a less than fair election, which was run by an ANC hand-picked “Independent Electoral Commission” and managed to salvage  thirty (30) seats in national and provincial legislatures in six of the nine provinces, being the official opposition in the Eastern Cape and Northern Province legislatures.  This confers a national character to the UDM rather than a regional one.  We should be proud of our performance within such a short space of time.

The UDM ventured into a very hostile and violent political environment where there was no tolerance of dissenting voices.  We survived a vitriolic political diatribe and bloody campaigns that sought to push us out of the political landscape.  All the talk about lack of free and fair political climate for elections in Zimbabwe is irrelevant when we did not have free, politicking in South Africa during our general elections last year.  The ruling party has always been the common denominator in all-political violence involving parties in South Africa. The consequence of that violence, was the tragic death of our Secretary General, Sifiso Nkabinde and many others in the Gauteng and the Western Cape.  This occurred in the context of demonising the UDM and its leadership and much political intimidation.  Today ANC card-carrying members are being tried in our courts of law in relation to murders committed to our members.  ANC functionaries barred our leaders from entering tertiary institutions to address students.  All these are still very fresh in the memories of South Africans. Against this background it is sickening to read about the ruling party passing a moral judgement about fairness or otherwise of pending elections in Zimbabwe, because they are not qualified to do so.  On the other hand the UDM maintains its position of insisting on freedom of expression and association and insists on these values being upheld by the ruling party.

The thrust of our opposition parliamentary performance has been a positive and proactive engagement, in which at all times we endeavoured to steer the government along a course of clean governance, commitment to the search for economic and social policies that can eradicate poverty, create a strong economy and narrow the chasm that divides our society into two nations of extremely rich white minority employers, who own 87% of the land and virtually the entire production process and skills, on the one hand, and 80% of a predominantly black nation who own only 13% of largely unproductive land, and nothing else except their labour which they are increasingly unable to sell in the absence of employment opportunities.  The UDM ethos primarily addresses this social disparity and advances economic strategies that can reverse this social order and create a South Africa that can be the home of happiness and prosperity for all its rich diversity.

cart_citypressOur point of departure in nation building must not be an ideological paradigm predicated on our inclusive 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.

Our history demands an awareness and willingness form all South Africans to fight the resurgence of racial hostilities and conflicts.  It is in recognition of this historical legacy of our society that our party has committed itself to the vision of a new – South Africanism, which recognises and embraces the cultural diversity of our society.  We agree with the view expressed by one leading Van Zyl Slabbert that:

“In a deeply divided society the challenge is to build institutions that could cope with, and mediate, the problems of diversity. Particularly important in this context is an efficient criminal justice system, the quality of education, religious tolerance; an open and accessible economy and generally a competent state administration.”

Our concept of the new South Africanism is based on the vision and conviction that “We are the political home of all South Africans, united in the spirit of South Africanism by our common passion for our country, mobilizing the creative spirit inherent in our rich diversity towards our transformation into a winning nation” (UDM Manifesto).

In pursuing its vision and mission the UDM encroached on constituencies which had been monopolized by other parties including the ruling party.  In the latter case the UDM began to articulate the aspirations of the disadvantaged majority who are increasingly being marginalized by the failure of the transformation process and in particular the inability of our economy to narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

We must now anchor our roots and expand our presence in these constituencies and translate into practice our mission to make the UDM the home of every South African.

Our analysis of the changing socio–eco-political order in South Africa formation, and politics in South Africa 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.  Indications are that the ruling party is already catering for the elite and pursuing economic policies that benefit a few who share a common vision with the elite’s of the core world economies.

The UDM could well be the focus for an emerging political formation, which will articulate the concerns and aspirations of the vast marginalized people of all colours and races in South Africa, who belong with the periphery, hence our economic policy centres on the need to invest in enterprise development, to alleviate unemployment among others, and narrow the gap between the haves and have-nots.

The levels of poverty are increasing and pervading all social and racial communities.  The emergence of this major political grouping representing the interest of the marginalized will remove the confusion created by an ambivalent Tripartite Alliance (ANC, Cosatu & SACP) ruling clique who preach elimination of unemployment in the streets and legislate retrenchments and greater unemployment in parliament.

The labour movement is encountering threats to their member’s job security as a result of government policies.  The impending retrenchments in the various sectors of the economy recently resulted in national strike by the COSATU labour federation.  It must be remembered that some of COSATU members are members of the UDM, some of whom hold official positions in their unions.  The anomaly of COSATU’s alliance with governing party brings the federation into collision with its patrons who hold government positions when it champions the interests of the workers.  Very often our UDM member’s political credentials are questioned when they refuse to conform to manipulation by the governing alliance.  It is for this reason that UDM has urged the labour federation to extricate itself from this complex and contradictory political entanglement, and focus its attention on purely labour related issues.

It is now imperative that the labour union assumes its traditional independent stance as a trade union and reject government pressures and divisive tactics which seek to discredit some of the labour union members in order to advance its jobless growth macro-economic policies.  It is a fact of life that there is no national support on the GEAR macro-economic policy because it creates joblessness and does not lead to economic growth.

There will be a political formation, which is well focussed on improving the quality of life for all South Africans.  The current confusion has undermined investor confidence and eroded our currency.  The consequence of the current trend is social instability.  In this situation corruption and misrule abound.

The revolutionary firebrands of yester-year have reneged on the struggle day’s promises to redistribute the national resources for the benefit of the disadvantaged.  Instead they have strategically positioned themselves in bogus workers empowerment projects, for their own benefit, without issuing even share certificates, let alone dividends to the workers they purport to empower.  The former champions of worker’s rights are now exploiting their traditional relationship with the workers to enrich themselves.  The erstwhile communists have abandoned their social programme and boarded the gravy train.

The UDM is challenged to lead South Africa out of this confusion and quagmire of corruption and parasitic exploitation.  We cannot let down the people who elected us because they believed in our vision and mission.  We must create a leadership cadre among our youth, students and women structures which is a highly motivated, and equip them to preach this vision and lay down the groundwork for the re-alignment of the political landscape towards the establishment of an alternative government founded on the principles that address the historical inequalities and imbalances.  The Tripartite Alliance partners seem to have forgotten their original agenda.  Their macro-economic policies have not delivered more jobs or more investments, instead billions of rands are leaving this country on a daily basis without any hope that they would ever come back.

The independence and therefore objectivity of state controlled media are severely compromised.  The SABC is not the public broadcaster which caters for all views in the country as it was intended.  It has become the mouthpiece and propaganda instrument of the government and the ruling party.  Generous access to the broadcaster is given to ministers of state and ruling party politicians, and denied to opposition politicians.  This is reminiscent of the apartheid Nationalist Party domination of the electronic media in the previous era.  The UDM suggest that there be a democratisation of the Airways by allowing more electronic broadcaster in the country in the spirit of our constitutional values.  After all our biggest bi-national commission partner the USA exemplifies this electronic media diversity.  Government leaders should use their extensive overseas fruitfully by drawing lessons from their exposure.

The social and political revolution which released the dynamic energy that had been trapped by the social engineering of the past regimes has created a new socio-political climate in South Africa wherein new political and social alignments can take place.

The tremors of social change have dislodged people and groups from familiar traditional positions.  Five years ago no one in his wildest dreams could have visualized Pik Botha campaigning for the African National Congress, his erstwhile mortal foe, urging his Afrikaaner Volk to take the Great Trek into the ANC.

 The very essence of the UDM was an expression of this phenomenon in so far as it brought together the Roelf Meyers and Holomisas of this world.  Our continued articulation of the need for re-alignment is a validation of a necessary and unavoidable political trend.  To us it comes as no surprise to see people like Pik Botha endorsing the ANC.  We are proud to own that the process we began, and continue to campaign for, is now being vindicated.

We recognize the defections from the UDM as a consequence of the process of political re-alignment, in terms of which groups and individuals began to drift towards interest groups they feel at home with.  Likewise there will be a drift towards the UDM from other formations by people who identify with our Vision and Mission.  It is to be hoped that such shift if allegiance will not elicit political intolerance and intimidation which seem to be the trade mark of ruling party style of politicking.

The current pattern of some opposition groupings in South Africa largely reflects the political and social divides of the apartheid and struggle days.  The advent of freedom, however, has created a new socio-political environment, which brings into focus fresh dynamics, and demands that we shed off the blinkers and prejudices of the past, jettison the shackles of our thought habits and open our minds to new ideas and be prepared to enter into open dialogue with people from different political backgrounds who are equally committed to the formulation of a new vision for South Africa.  We visualise a paradigm shift that will focus on the process that will lead to the establishment of alternative government.

The NMC last year mandated the party to engage other political formations in discussions that could culminate i