Get To Know Bantu Holomisa

1. How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?

In 1996 I was expelled from the ANC after testifying at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission about issues and activities concerning the Transkei. I refused to retract my testimony arguing that my testimony was historical knowledge.I had then started the National Consultative Forum as a broad-based consultation with all South Africans on the need to start a new political party. At roughly the same time, Roelf Meyer had left the National Party to start the New Movement Process and we entered into negotiations and came to an agreement to merge paths. The United Democratic Movement (UDM) was launched on the 27th of September 1997. The UDM fought its first national and provincial elections in 1999 and I have been a Member of Parliament for the UDM since then.

2. What is one goal that you would like to achieve during your time as an MP?

I have had the privilege to be a Member of Parliament for quite some time and I have achieved many a goal, some bigger, some smaller. Therefore, and at the risk of sounding clichéd, my goal at the moment is to work towards being the most effective opposition the UDM can be and leading by example. For me this does not mean opposing everything for the sake of opposing but being a considered opposition and also to work together with other opposition parties in an effort to find a unifying spirit amongst the opposition.

3. What does your job as an MP entail, and what do you find challenging/demanding?

For me the most important role that Parliament plays is that of oversight and I am most frustrated at the moment, because of the prolonged state of disaster, with the diminished presence and gravitas of Parliament and the lack of accountability of the Executive.Furthermore, our committee work has been frustrated by the hybrid system. In addition, I find the limited speaking time allotted to opposition parties during debates utterly frustrating as this waters down debate and our opportunity and ability to robustly engage the ruling party. Especially on matters where the UDM feel strongly about, such as service delivery, job creation, the revival of the economy, education, crime and lawlessness, the environment and health care in particular. I do however find constituency work rather rewarding i.e., engaging with the people of South Africa, whether it be in person or via something simple as a tweet. These engagements more often than not deliver some form of work where I am able to help the South African public with problems, big and small.

4. Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engage in?

I am officially based at the UDM’s National Office in Pretoria, but I roam quite a lot and do quite a bit of work in the Eastern Cape, which is my home base and where I am from. Some of the smaller examples of constituency work are for instance, where I intervened on behalf of the Liliesleaf Farm Museum staff with the minister of Sports, Arts and Culture. I have written to the Minister of Correctional Services on behalf of hundreds of re-employed staff members, nationwide, who are concerned over their employment conditions; as well as to the Minister of Health on behalf of healthcare workers in the Eastern Cape who sought permanent employment from the Department of Health.In particular the UDM focusses on exposing corruption, and we battle quite hard to work towards having a clean government. For instance, we had agitated about the alleged corruption at the Public Investment Corporation (PIC), which in the end led to President Ramaphosa instituting the Mpati Commission of Inquiry, which in turn had vindicated the UDM.

5. How do you think Parliament can drive more public participation in policy, legislation and voting?

Parliament needs to run an intense and sustained ownership/citizenship/patriotism drive, especially at schools, that will motivate people to at the very least feel the need to vote, if not take part in policy and legislation processes. But the rub lies therein that Parliament needs to step up its game, it is no use advertising a better South Africa, talking about accountability, if that accountability of the executive, government departments and State-Owned Enterprises is not a reality.

6. What are you passionate about, both professionally and personally?

Climate change and nature conservation are pivotal issues over which I am actually quite passionate about, both professionally and personally. I played a leading role in the establishment of Champions of the Environment Foundation, ( an autonomous and apolitical group formed to meet the urgent need for a coordinated campaign to heighten national awareness of environmental conservation issues and best practices benefiting South Africa. Some of Champions’ projects include:

  • In 2020, Champions facilitated the donation of personal protection equipment, to the tune of R700,000, to around 32 Eastern Cape hospitals and care facilities as part of the Covid-19 response.
  • With the Nyandeni/Kwakhonjwayo (Eastern Cape) land rehabilitation project, Champions partnered with the Department of Environmental Affairs, to create 143 jobs and opportunities, for sixteen months, for rural women and youth to develop long-term skills in the area, which falls under Chief Mpumalanga Gwadiso.
  • Together with the University of Pretoria's Gordon Institute of Business Science, Champions hosted a Carbon Tax Workshop for chief executive officers and other decisionmakers on South Africa’s proposed carbon tax and the economic response to carbon emissions.
  • The Enyokeni Palace Project, in partnership with the Department of Environmental Affairs, Tourism World, the Usuthu Traditional Council and the Zulu Royal House where some 34,000 trees, endemic to KwaZulu-Natal, were planted in one day by the traditional Reed Dancers.
  • Champions’ first project was launched at the Ngqungqu Administrative Area (Eastern Cape)where three thousand indigenous trees were planted on four sites, which have yielded excellent results with 120 permanent jobs created and sustainable boreholes sunk. In addition, I was appointed to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s inaugural Presidential Climate Change Coordinating Commission (P4C) with effect from 17 December 2020.

7. Which social justice issues are you most concerned with?

For me, the old adage “charity begins at home” rings the truest. I therefore try to make a direct and tangible contribution to some of the social justice issues closest to my heart. Through the work of my annual Bantu Holomisa Charity Golf Day, we have done fundraising for the Efata School for the Blind and Deaf and the Empilweni Old Age Home and some other local charitiesin Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, since 2015.

8. Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this?

For the past two years, due to the Covid-19 state of disaster, Parliament has been particularly ineffectual. Part of what must be immediately done is that Parliament needs to get back to full operation as soon as possible, hence the UDM’s joining other political parties in bringing about an earlier end to the state of disaster. But I agree with now Chief Justice Zondo in his assessment that Parliament is, or has been, failing in its oversight role. This is a difficult matter to address, since the UDM is not the ruling party, we are not responsible for the ruling party’s discipline and cannot determine their committee attendance and voting patterns. What we can determine are our own actions in the opposition and rally the opposition to act as a bloc; this we try to do on an ongoing basis.

9. What are your or your party's aspirations/plans for the remainder of the Sixth Parliament?

To perform admirably in terms of our work in Parliamentary plenaries and committee work, which remain daunting tasks. As far as intraparty democracy milestones are concerned, the UDM will host its 6th national congress in December 2022, and we will of course gear the party’s internal machinery towards fighting the 2024 national and provincial elections.

10. What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it?

For me, as a disciplinarian and military man, I find the lack of discipline and lack of respect for the law, rules, and regulations in general in South Africa highly frustrating and this permeates right to the highest offices of our country. It is also a pity that Parliament has become the victim of the ruling party’s infighting, which is a weakness in our representation system that is solely based on proportionality, rather than a constituency-based system, where there is greater accountability to the electorate.

View Mr Holomisa's profile here.


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