/ 2 March 2024

UDM manifesto: Partial privatisation for Eskom, merit-based public posts


United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa launched the party’s manifesto on Saturday, where he proposed that Eskom be partly privatised to rid South Africa of its energy crisis. 

The UDM is one of the smaller parties to launch its manifesto ahead of the May general elections, and one of several seeking to remain relevant. 

Since it entered the political arena in 1999, the party’s electoral support has declined in each general election. When the party first contested the elections, it received 14 seats in Parliament but dropped dramatically in the last elections to just two.

Holomisa joined the DA led coalition in the 2016 elections which saw the party gaining a deputy mayoral position in the Nelson Mandela Metro, however this relationship soured shortly after. 

Holomisa’s hold on the party has also been criticised, having been the party president since inception. 

At the manifesto launch, Holomisa said that a public and private partnership model for the privatisation of Eskom where the government holds a 51% stake in the entity must be explored. 

He said that his government will ask assistance from other countries, with strong capabilities, to give an independent diagnosis of South Africa’s power failures.

“The ANC has been lying to the people of South Africa about the causes of load shedding,” he said. 

A former ANC leader who defected from the party in the early years of democracy, Holomisa said that the UDM will also seek assistance from the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change for a reprieve in terms of the deadlines for migrating from fossil fuels to renewable energy. 

He said the party will also request an opportunity to develop energy policies based on South Africa’s delayed socio-economic development goals caused by the separate development policies of the past governments.

In 2023, the South African Reserve Bank estimated that load-shedding was costing the economy as much as 899 million rand per day. 

In March last year, Electricity Minister Kgosientso Ramokgopa conceded that load-shedding led to the loss of over 650 000 jobs in 2022, with a forecast of 850,000 job losses by 2023. 

The official unemployment rate increased to 32.1% in the fourth quarter of 2023, according to Statistics South Africa’s quarterly labour force survey. Up from a previous reading of 31.9%, the rise was driven by a slight increase in the number of unemployed people, the Mail & Guardian previously reported. 

Holomisa said that the party’s response to unemployment would include identifying markets for small firms through promoting domestic and foreign connections. 

He said that his government would also identify loan and capital sources, as well as facilitating loans and investments in community businesses.

Looking at older models to boost the economy, Holomisa said his government would re-establish the maintenance units of old to maintain government buildings, schools, roads, fencing of grazing land and crop fields. 

The party has promised to establish waste management schemes to clean up South Africa, “which has become the dirtiest country on the continent, and support small to medium and micro enterprises that want to venture into this field”.

Holomisa said that the UDM would establish soil erosion combatting teams to tackle dongas, river and other erosion after heavy rains. It will also plant new forests in communities for windbreaks and for firewood.

The UDM has promised zero-tolerance for corruption and abuse of power with effective procedures and special courts to be established to investigate and prosecute those in the public and private sector involved in corruption.

Independent anti-corruption task teams will be established in each province to determine the level of corruption and to immediately introduce recovery steps, he said.

He said that the UDM will end the usurping of the powers of accounting officers by political leaders and the subsequent issuing of political directives that are always laced with corruption, and would reward systems with protection for civil servants who are whistleblowers.

South Africa does have legislation that can be used to protect whistleblowers, but it has been described as “all bark and no bite”. 

The Protected Disclosure Act allows for the consideration of compensation when whistleblowing leads to occupational detriment, but there are well-known cases in which this did not happen, such as that of anti-corruption activist and whistleblower Athol Williams, who blew the whistle on US-based consultancy firm Bain & Co, which was heavily implicated in state capture. 

During his testimony at the commission in April 2021, President Cyril Ramaphosa thanked the numerous whistleblowers who had testified, saying they had been subjected to “enormous pressure”, because they had chosen to speak out about corruption. “I regret that in some instances, they have not been treated well,” he said.

Holomisa said that the collusion of private companies in price-fixing and banks meddling with the currency must stop. 

“The fight against corruption will necessitate investment in training of the civil service and police in IT-related matters as well as in closer cooperation amongst the relevant institutions,” the party leader said. 

He added that the UDM will establish task teams to clear houses where government pensions and UIF claims have been compromised. It will also depoliticise the civil service and law enforcement agencies so that appointments are only made on merit.