NASREC, JOHYANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA. 24 January 2009. United Democratic Movement (UDM) election manifest launch. UDM president Bantu Holomisa launching his party's election manifest. Picture by WESSEL OOSTHUIZEN / SASPA

The current crop of ANC leaders don’t have the discipline or political will to climb the mountain we still face, says Bantu Holomisa.

I have worked with the ANC in exile as the head of the then Transkei government. I joined the ANC in 1994 and was appointed a deputy minister in Nelson Mandela’s government.

I was unceremoniously shown the door in 1996 and started a consultation process with South Africans on the need to form another political party, culminating in the formation of the United Democratic Movement (UDM) in 1997.

In 1999, I delegated quite a number of public representatives to the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

Wearing all these caps has placed me in a unique position to view the past 20 years of our democracy.

I was part of the miracle of 1994 and the first democratically elected government.

Back then, South Africa and the world were still on a high from the paradigm shift that was made from apartheid to a constitutional democracy. We had a right to feel proud and hold our heads high under Madiba’s leadership.

Once the dust had settled, despite what the doom prophets had predicted, everyone felt assured that this change was the real McCoy, and the business of government and service delivery could commence.

Granted, the challenges were enormous, but we all felt ready to take up the yoke to better the lives of all South Africans.

On corruption, for me, the cracks in the ANC’s moral fibre started to show in 1996 when I was told to withdraw what I had said at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

My testimony referred to corruption that involved R2 million from the leisure and gambling magnate Sol Kerzner.

As things started to play out, more and more of these corruption scandals popped out of the woodwork. In that same year the Sarafina 2 scandal hit our headlines and in 1999 the mother of all corruption scandals, the arms deal, hit this nation.

Almost each year thereafter another scandal was exposed.

Every succeeding one was worse than the one before.

Corruption and disrespect for the rule of law walk hand-in-hand. Case in point is Jacob Zuma. I think of the so-called “spy tapes”, his “generally corrupt” relationship with Schabir Shaik – and after the whole Nkandla spend made headlines all over, he first took umbrage at any suggestion that no one but the Zuma family financed the Nkandla lodge, only to take refuge behind his toadies, saying he knew nothing.

There is a pattern here, and if Citizen Number One can get away with all kinds of misdeeds, one can understand it if the average citizen starts to think it’s okay to break the law or to steal taxpayers’ money.

Disrespect for the rule of law, as exhibited by our executive, as well as institutionalised corruption, have a direct bearing on South Africa’s downgrading on international ratings, which in turn negatively impacts investor confidence.

The symbiotic relationships between political parties and their so-called “investment arms” (such as the ANC and Chancellor House Holdings) erode private sector confidence.

Once upon a time the ANC was revered for its ability to develop policies and engage on policy issues. However, when it ascended to power, it outsourced this very critical intellectual function to consultants.

The outsourcing of policy formulation resulted in a situation where the ruling party deployees could neither internalise, nor implement, these policies, because they do not understand them.

This constitutes the mother of all confusions and frustrations among government officials, resulting in billions of rand being returned to the National Treasury unspent. In cases where money had been spent, the quality of the end product leaves much to be desired.

However, at this point I want to say without doubt much progress has been made to better the lives of our people. But there is still a mountain ahead to climb, and I don’t think the current crop of ANC leaders has shown the discipline and political will to make that trek with South Africans.

On why our people are so unhappy 20 years down the line, the government simply does not listen. Instead it sends the police to violently silence the citizenry. We think of Andries Tatane, Marikana, the deaths in Mothutlung and the violence that ensued after the ANC’s Bekkersdal visit.

Not since the years of apartheid have we seen such human rights abuse.

The UDM believes that job creation is the ultimate weapon to combat poverty, but this goal will not be realised if our economy is not managed properly. The government has a responsibility to protect our economy and South African jobs.

Meaningful government intervention is needed to ensure economic growth. This necessarily means, for instance, that our roads must be passable, an efficient rail network should be in place and the electrification and provision of water, irrigation and reticulation of areas where people live and businesses operate should be high on the government’s agenda.

* Bantu Holomisa is president of the United Democratic Movement (UDM).

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Newspapers.

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