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Vote UDM and take South Africa back before it’s too late

After announcing on Monday he's changed his allegiance from the ANC to the Democratic Movement party, Prof Mthunzi Mdwaba addresses the question on everyone's mind: why UDM?

THINK-PIECE: Professor Mthunzi Mdwaba addresses the question on everyone’s mind: why UDM?

(Originally published by NOWinSA)

Following my announcement to join forces with General Bantu Holomisa’s United Democratic Movement (UDM), on the 19th of February 2024, I have received a mixed response from friends, family, colleagues and followers. On the whole, the majority of responses have been one of excitement and encouragement. A good number of my network have responded with the expression, “I did not see that coming”. Some of my followers have expressed confusion on my decision, while some have come out openly that it is an error of judgment that will back-fire and that will lose me followers, stating that I would have been better off starting my own party, or joining one of the more popular parties.

Those who know me well will be aware that I have never been a linear thinker, nor have I been one to take the more popular or easy route for anything I do, and never fear to take on what seems like impossible challenges. Colleagues and friends have always later said to me, “we thought you had bitten more than you can chew”!

What value-add do I bring to the UDM? My agreed role with the leadership of the UDM is that of Chief Advocate and Lobbyist and to bring the following:

1. Proven leadership qualities.

2. Entrepreneurial and enterprise creation, development and Business Management Skills.

3. Tripartite and social dialogue experience at local, sub-regional, continental and global level, spanning 187 years. Consequently, relationship management with governments, business organisations and trade unions.

4. Experience and friendships with different countries in 5 regions of the world in which I led Missions that were critical for Employer/Employee and Government relations.

5. Labour and Economics Policy -making experience that is both local and global.

6. Education, skills and knowledge transfer that can be converted to sustainable employment

7. Business and human rights experience at global level.

8. Multi-disciplinary and multi-sectoral company ownership/management in a listed and unlisted corporate environment.

9. Educational experience in elementary education (chaired Bryanston Primary Governing Body when my kids were there); at Torque IT which was the leading training solutions ICT provider in Africa, built in 27 countries, I won the Computer Society of South Africa’s ICT personality of the year in 2006, Black Businessman of the year at the 8th annual Metropolitan Oliver Empowerment Awards (MOEA) from two competing organisations in 2009, and was appointed the Chair of the University of Western Cape (UWC) Council in 2014. Torque IT also went on to win the Cisco Partner of the Year for seven years in a row, Microsoft Partner of the Year twice in five years, as well as Awards from the then Department of Labour for the highest conversion rate from training to employability at 75-80%.

10. Vast local and global networks, as well as a huge youthful following. 70% of my followers are the youth.

Now, let me explain my rationale for the UDM move, yes move, because everyone will not readily admit to you that we are all playing the game of life which in this case, has a lot at stake, namely the resurrection of our moral fibre and dignity for our people.

Everyone can agree that South Africa under ANC rule has been on the decline for a number of years now. The Mandela years gave us hope. The Mbeki years made us believe we were on an upward trajectory. The Zuma years were a disaster in which corruption intensified. The Ramaphosa years have been like a train crash in which corruption, criminality, unemployment and poverty have reached unprecedented levels. Economic hardship has become the order of the day. We are on the precipice of a cliff.

The proliferation of political parties is symbolic of the change South Africans seek, and which has become as passionate and urgent as the revolutionary 1994 change from the racism and oppression of black Africans during apartheid to the dawn of democracy and the first ever vote for black people. Interestingly, the once oppressed, now represented by the ruling party, the ANC (the PAC/Poqo that my dad and uncle were part of, was another at the dawn of democracy) that once upon a time was said to be one of the most strategic organisations in the world, at least as per my African Politics lecturer at Wits at the time, has assumed the role of the oppressor and abuser. Every facet of the State, including the judiciary seems to be captured and huge power is being wielded for personal gain against the citizenry, just like the National Party prior to 1994. 

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was what ushered all of us into the realm of post-94 forgiveness. What I believe we missed though, was the collective therapy, we as the oppressed needed as an intervention before we could rule. The sad reality of most oppressed ‘victims’ fully aware that they were the subject of oppression, tend to become the inevitable oppressor themselves when there is no deliberate and sustained intervention. Their only sphere of reference, sadly, is that of being oppressed. There are of course some exceptions to the rule, but this is a rarity. Please ponder on this as we look at the political terrain and the different players.

“I’m more interested in the future than in the past, because the future is where I intend to live.”

Albert Einstein

The 2024 election is an opportunity for us to be freed from the mental bondage of being “indoctrinated by the liberalisation drug” that has been represented by the ANC. Einstein once said, “I’m more interested in the future than in the past, because the future is where I intend to live.”

The majority of South Africans have finally had the realisation that we have both an oppressive and abusive situation that is unprecedented, one that is far more damaging because it is done by fellow comrades and a private boys club that only has room for the ANC/SACP/COSATU tripartite. It is worse that a big part of the players seem to be remote controlled by erstwhile oppressors.

It would seem that most people in their desperation for the change we all want and to get us out of the quagmire we find ourselves, believe we should go for a populist route dramatically demonstrated by what I refer to as “stadium filling politics” of who has the ability to draw up the largest stadium crowds, and make the loudest noise. Needless to say there are a few parties that hog the headlines that look attractive based on the “right (big size) and noises” they make and having been born out of the womb of the ANC, and some being the opposition we have had since 1994, albeit in different colours and branding.

Populism and popularity does not translate to effectiveness and pragmatism. Big in size equates to “quantity” not “quality. The bigger the size can also mean the slower the movement, from initiation of an idea, putting together effective steering committees, consulting and agreeing, which may delay implementation, if it ever gets there. Nimbleness and agility are critical when one is dealing with a crisis, and at this very moment South Africa is in a crisis. We are at a cross-roads. The bigger the size can also mean that some voices disappear by virtue of not being the loudest in the room. The UDM has a fairly flat structure, movement and decision-making is quick.

I disagree therefore with the notion that the best party would be one that is big and popular! However, there is no silver bullet to the mess we are in. It will take a collective effort by all South Africans to wrestle us back from the precipice. It will be a collaborative effort that will get us to the promised land.

A pact of some sort, of hopefully objectively like-minded people, will end up winning the day and many are positioning themselves for different reasons. What is not healthy is what we have done repeatedly over the last few years, and sadly we still don’t see that it is taking us deeper and deeper into a pit from which we may never return; the dangerous ‘ANYONE-BUT-SO-AND-SO’ syndrome and the equally bad ‘POPULIST’ syndrome of who makes the most noise, both of which are a big threat to our hard-earned democracy. Once one makes a decision to support and vote for ‘anyone-but-so-and-so’, the plot has been lost. No thinking needs to happen after this. There is no focusing on the solutions that are required. Strategy always follows Structure. Not the other way round.

Pedigree, consistency of fighting a good cause, fighting against corruption, discipline, scandal free behaviour, respectful engagement, and most important, the appreciation for what needs to be done, accompanied by experience that will influence the kind of policies we need to effect change, as well as the ability to implement in a manner devoid of ‘revenge’, ‘vengeance’, ‘avarice’, ‘ego’, is what we need. Holomisa and the UDM have the qualities and moral content to take us into a realm that is conducive for change, impact and social justice. Ubuntu in its real form, not the rhetoric of same is what is required. Servant leadership that is made of a real desire for the intended “Batho Pele’ (people first) principle that never happened post-94, the UDM is the perfect vehicle for this.

We need something different. We need a new way of doing things. We need discipline. We need structure. We need sustainable jobs. We need entrepreneurship. We need dignity. We need to feel safe and we need protection. We need peace and prosperity not the rhetoric about same. We need a real recognition that South Africa is for all who live in it – all its people.

We need to undo the structured corruption and scant regard to ethical governance that the country has developed in a surreptitious manner, and has become the order of the day in doing business.

The youth of this country, 70% of whom make up my followers, are extremely talented, gifted and ready to be counted

Why then would we want to vote for relics. The undecided voters go into the millions. Why is this? In my respectful view, this is due to the fact that everyone else looks the same, the same characters wearing different clothes, different branding, crisscrossing chairs from one party to the other looking for glory and personal aggrandisement. There is no room for unbridled diversity and cerebral based decision-making that does not need to be popular or populist in its conceptualisation and design.

I am aware that my peers, who have all been blind followers of the ANC, have finally gotten exhausted of the promises; the spin, the lies that are peddled shamelessly, using Mandela quotes at every turn. In the case of Ramaphosa, he quoted Mandela at the beginning and at the end of his recent lie-riddled and disdainful SONA speech so as to appeal to our hearts and continue to manipulate us. 

Mandela also said, “If the ANC does to you what the Apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.” 

The ANC has had 30 years to do good. The first 10 was not bad. The second 10 was a downward spiral. The last 10 have been dismal. The next 10 would be a demolishing act that we cannot in good conscience allow.

A cursory look at the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s), particularly, SDGs 1(End poverty), SDG 2 (Zero Hunger), SDG 4 (Quality Education), SDG 7 ( Affordable & Clean Energy), SDG 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), SDG 9 (Industry, Innovation  and Infrastructure), SDG 10 (Reduced Inequalities) and SDG 16 (Peace, Justice & Strong Institutions) which make up 8 of the 17 SDGs demonstrates a dismal failure by the ruling party. The Mandela legacy is in tatters. Our human rights record internally, within the country, is being obliterated and pouting Mandela is an insult to one of the greatest human beings to have ever lived.

The UDM cannot do everything by itself. It needs to collaborate with others. What I see though is a party that has earned the opportunity to be trusted to lead the revolution we need. It is the ideal vehicle to take us where we need to go. It is the light we need in working with others and shaping a future we can all be proud of; not for us, but for our children, our grandchildren. We deserve this as a people.

Let us stop clinging to the past. It was but that, the past. We must build and have the responsibility to construct the FUTURE WE WANT.


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Curated by editor-in-chief, Tankiso Komane, this special collection of articles from the Editor's Desk unpacks topics of the day, including commentary, in-depth analysis and partner content.
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