ANC told to get to work

Building on dismay over high unemployment in South Africa, a new party is putting jobs before market credibility. Karina Robinson reports

TWO WEEKS ago in a black township in Port Elizabeth, a crime-ridden city where unemployment is more than 30 per cent, the United Democratic Movement got together 352 delegates and more than 1,600 observers to try to change South Africa's political landscape.

This new party, only eight months old, is making inroads into the governing ANC's support, growing disillusioned with present economic policies.

These policies have received a thumbs-up from financial markets. Inflation is falling and the budget deficit is expected to come in at 3.5 per cent in 1998/99, down from 4.1 per cent last year. The Johannesburg All-Share Index is up over 40 per cent from mid-January, in spite of concern about the Asian financial crisis and its effect on emerging markets.

However, the story for the average black South African is very different. "Commodities, and especially gold, haven't had a good history and companies have been downsizing," said Graham Frost, a senior executive at Fedsure Asset Management. "And, with South Africa opening up to the world economy, companies, to become internationally competitive, have to buy new equipment which is more automated and uses less labour."

The national unemployment rate is officially 33 per cent, as slow economic growth - forecast at 1.8 per cent this year - fails to create jobs. Crime is so commonplace it no longer makes headlines and education suffers from a lack of teachers and textbooks.

This hurts the so-called "third society" - the 40 per cent of the population who are unemployed or under-employed, the elderly poor, and rural peasants. The UDM is seeking their support and criticises the government for not improving their lot.

One focus is the ANC's pledge on house-building. Three weeks ago the director-general of housing, Mpumi Nxumalo-Nhlapo, admitted that her department's budget, at 3.6 billion rand (pounds 450 million), was 30 per cent lower this year.

"Capital flows are more mobile so the government has to play the international game and it's playing that part very well," said Hugo Kleyn, economist at brokers SGFP. "Expectations on the ground may be too high. I don't think the ANC has particularly failed."

However, the UDM claims that keeping the budget deficit under control is not the only reason the ANC is not delivering results. "The ANC has lofty ideas but no implementation strategy on the ground. They are pussyfooting around," said Bantu Holomisa, co-founder of the UDM and a former senior figure in the ANC.

Even business has realised that the lack of new jobs is politically unsustainable. The think-tank, the South African Foundation, recently admitted that the government's growth, employment and redistribution strategy, known as Gear, failed to create jobs. It argues for tax breaks and subsidies for job creation, as well as measures to promote medium, small and micro-sized enterprises.

This is a strategy close to the UDM's heart. Roelf Meyer, UDM's co-founder and a former secretary-general of the National Party, said: "The key is to avoid the passive approach of: 'Who can give me a job?' and instead have an attitude of: 'How can I create a job'?" Mr Meyer is best-known as the chief government negotiator who, with the ANC's Cyril Ramaphosa, helped bring apartheid to a peaceful end.

The UDM's economic policy puts jobs above everything. "Without jobs, crime will increase, there will be no need for education, and people will never be able to afford to take care of their own needs."

The party advocates creation of small businesses. Government would implement "policies which jump-start market forces and enable small enterprises to take root and grow," said Mr Meyer. Access to capital - the single most important barrier to small business development - would come through the formation of local stock exchanges and the development of non-bank financial institutions, modelled on the Grameen Bank, which provides capital to groups of women in Bangladesh.

The chances of the UDM implementing these strategies are minimal because the ANC is forecast to win the spring 1999 elections. However, it could influence policy by becoming a strong opposition, despite being dismissed by top ANC officials.

"I've heard the UDM say ANC policies are correct. The grudge they have with us is that we don't implement them. I don't know how you can establish a political organisation on such a basis," said Thabo Mbeki, the deputy president.

But the UDM, despite its youth, has been doing well. It now ranks alongside the long-established Democratic Party and Inkatha Freedom Party in terms of support, according to a poll published on Friday by Markinor, an independent market research company. These gains have been achieved on the back of losses suffered by the ANC and the National Party.

"The UDM has clearly made significant inroads into the ANC's support base in the Eastern and Western Cape," saidHennie Kotze, a professor at the University of Stellenbosch.

The UDM came second in a recent by-election, and a string of local councillors from the National Party - including mixed-race and Indian people - defected to it. The UDM insists it is multi-racial, unlike other parties which, it says, have a clear race bias.

The party's support base at the moment is 72 per cent black, 16 per cent white and 12 per cent mixed-race and Indian, figures that mirror the racial composition of South Africa. Its two co-founders, one black, one white, insist that the next step in South Africa is for politics to be split along lines other than race.

But opinion is divided as to what difference the UDM can make. "They only started less than a year ago and they don't have the election machinery or any money behind them," said Mr Kleyn of SGFP.

This may well mean that the UDM will form an alliance with other opposition parties. The National Party is probably out of the question, say political analysts, because Mr Meyer was forced to leave it when his attempts at reform were rejected.

The Democratic Party, despite being perceived as representing the interests of a white elite, might be an option. Mr Holomisa said the UDM's national conference in June would debate the issue of alliances.

"In the final analysis, we are likely to see either the DP or UDM assuming the official opposition status," said Sipho Maseko, senior lecturer at the University of the Western Cape.

The Eastern Cape is the one province where the UDM is expected to do well in the elections. It has always been Mr Holomisa's stronghold from his days as leader of the Transkei homeland. Mr Mbeki dismissed even this, though. "The ANC in the Eastern Cape is much older than Bantu Holomisa," he said.

The Transkei became a byword for financial mismanagement, although some commentators insist that Mr Holomisa was not entirely to blame, as it was not in the then ruling National Party's interests to have prosperous homelands.

"The jury is still out on the political integrity of Holomisa, though his moral integrity isn't in question. He's very unpredictable," said Moss Leoka, former president of the Johannesburg Chamber of Commerce and Industry and a member of the black business elite.

The ANC officially dismisses the UDM. Yet a clearer indication of its real thoughts may be that it thought it worth while to send supporters to disrupt the UDM's Port Elizabeth event.

Copyright: IOS & Bloomberg

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

£280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little