(Bantu Holomisa via Twitter)
Pretoria - The UDM wooed Gauteng voters with promises to put the community first at a rally in Pretoria on Sunday.
"People see Gauteng as the duck that lays the golden eggs, and yet when they come to Johannesburg or Pretoria they are in for a rude awakening," UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said in a speech prepared for delivery at its launch in the province of its campaign for the August 3 municipal and local government elections.
"There are disconcerting signs that our infrastructure is in distress. If you walk down our streets you will see paint flaking from the walls and roofs of the buildings. It is a sad and ugly sight. No-one respects the by-laws and they are definitely not enforced. Our CBDs are fast becoming unhygienic slums threatening community health," he said, tapping into the lament of many a Gauteng resident.
With the help of communities, UDM councils would be proactive in making sure that dilapidated buildings are inspected and that owners are forced to bring them up to standard and maintain them.
He promised that they would not waste taxpayers' money on extravagant parties or frivolous spending, and would focus on bread and butter issues.
He noted the difficult conditions of people living in rat-infested shacklands and promised that UDM councils would immediately assist these people and prevent others from building there. This would be done through an accelerated housing programme in conjunction with provincial and national authorities.
Local government would make land immediately available for development, and infrastructure development would be monitored by both the national department and a municipality.
To tackle litter and pollution, a UDM-led municipality would help people to create small businesses that would be responsible for cleaning areas of all the waste and environmental degradation so that they can live in a decent healthy place. It promised regular refuse collection and income-generating recycling initiatives.
The UDM believes that politicising municipal affairs leads to political parties blocking each other just for the sake of derailing it, but at the expense of the people.
"The UDM has a track-record of working with other parties and we will continue our philosophy of doing just that: working with our colleagues to make life liveable for our people irrespective of political affiliation," said Holomisa.
The party would immediately tackle Johannesburg's billing system and would not tolerate administrative incompetence.
It would write off apartheid-era debt arrears to the municipality, and strengthen the indigence policy.
To help alleviate the frustrations of communities who feel they are not being heard by their municipalities, the party would start a system of small crisis committees made up of people with the necessary technical expertise to help councillors with their work.
"If it is a simple problem of a burst pipe, engineers can be dispatched or if a more complex problem, meetings can be arranged with complainants and solutions found as a collective," he continued.
The party would also root out any family links to tenders and promised to make tender processes transparent and unbiased.
"This local government election is our chance to show that it can be done. Starting in the streets where we live, we can build something greater, something better, to improve the lives of our families and loved ones," he said.
Holomisa is a South African Defence Force-trained soldier who forced the resignation of "homeland" Transkei leader George Matanzima amid allegations of corruption in 1987.
A few months later he pulled off military coup with the Transkei Defence Force, removing Matanzima's replacement Stella Sigcau over allegations she had benefited from a bribe from hotelier Sol Kerzner.
He had once belonged to the ANC, but was expelled. In a study paper on him, the ANC said that he joined the party in 1994 and was very popular, but felt that he acted outside of party party processes by, for example, giving evidence at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) without discussing it with the ANC's TRC committee first.
The party felt that he acted as though he was a "VIP" and did not fully understand how the ANC worked. At the time of his TRC testimony, Holomisa was a deputy minister in the first democratic government's Cabinet and he was censured by the ANC for what it regarded as a public attack on Sigcau, a minister, at the TRC.
It did not matter that this was only a small part of his testimony, but that the media had latched on to it and it was being widely publicised. He had during this period also criticised some other ANC stalwarts. He was expelled from the ANC and went on the form the UDM in 1997 with politician Roelf Meyer, who has since left.
Holomisa has remained an outspoken critic of the party while in Parliament. The party launched its manifesto nationally in December.