Youth threaten UDM influence in the Eastern Cape

Unemployed and despondent, young people in the Eastern Cape are looking for alternatives when it comes to casting their vote, all in the hope of a better life.

By: Selloane Khalane

United Democratic Movement (UDM) leader Bantu Holomisa’s Eastern Cape home is in an ANC-led ward in the village of Mqanduli, 30km south of Mthatha. On election day, the party’s grip in the sprawling village scattered with green rondavels and concrete structures will be tested with the rise of young voters disillusioned with both the UDM and the ANC.

With a population of 2 647 and 964 households, according to the 2011 census, the village is crippled by unemployment and the lack of access to basic necessities such as water.

While young, mostly unemployed residents expressed their dissatisfaction at the ANC’s leadership and the UDM’s stagnancy, their grandparents remain loyal to the two parties.

The UDM was established in 1996, when the ANC expelled Holomisa, a former Transkei military leader, after a disciplinary committee found him guilty of bringing the party into disrepute. Holomisa told the Truth and Reconciliation Commission that then public enterprises minister Stella Sigcau had accepted a R50 000 payment from former Transkei ruler George Matanzima.

The R50 000 was reportedly part of a R2 million payment that hotel magnate Sol Kerzner made to Matanzima.

Steady decline

In the 1999 general election, the UDM garnered 3.4% of the votes and earned seats in six of the nine provincial legislatures. The UDM also became the official opposition in the Eastern Cape.

The decline of the party began in the 2004 general election when only nine members were elected to the National Assembly, five less than in 1999.

The UDM lost its position as the official opposition in the Eastern Cape after two of its members in the Eastern Cape legislature defected to splinter party the United Independent Front in 2005.

Although the party gained new members from the ANC after then President Thabo Mbeki was recalled in September 2008, the party retained only four seats after the 2009 and 2014 polls.

Occupying four seats in Parliament, the UDM joined forces with the EFF, the United Front and the African Independent Congress in August 2018 to oust the DA’s Athol Trollip as Nelson Mandela Bay mayor through a vote of no confidence, collapsing the coalition. The UDM’s Mongameli Bobani, who was elected as coalition mayor in Trollip’s place, is reportedly facing a third motion of no confidence following sustained allegations of corruption against him.

‘ANC councillor does not serve the community’

The UDM’s decline has not discouraged 55-year-old Nomathemba Ndlwayivviwa. Sitting outside her rundown shack, she said still believes her party of choice, the UDM, will build an RDP house for her should it govern.

“I have always voted for UDM and I will continue to vote for the party because Holomisa lives among us,” she said. Jack Gemetana, 65, who lives with her, shared Ndlwayivviwa’s sentiments and said his vote belongs to the UDM.

Ndlwayivviwa said the shack was erected to provide additional shelter for her family of 10, which were sharing two rondavels. She said the family lives on her mother’s monthly R1 800 government grant. Ndlwayivviwa’s mother, Nojajile Ndlwayivviwa, 88, slouches on a bed in a rondavel furnished with the bare minimum.

This article was first published by New Frame

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