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.

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.

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Living in abject poverty and a third-time voter, Nojajile Ndlwayivviwa is an ardent ANC supporter and hopes to see the gains of democracy and the “new dawn” promised by the ANC.

However, her granddaughter Busisiwe, 28, said her vote will go to a party that will create jobs, and provide locals with proper sanitation and water. Like many of the youth in the village, she is unemployed and barely has enough money to take care of her child.

Busisiwe is despondent when she talks about the development of the village, the leadership of the ANC and the UDM’s inactivity. She said locals who can’t afford water tanks fetch water from a nearby river, a stone’s throw from Holomisa’s house. “The ANC councillor does not serve the community. We have no water, houses and jobs.”

25 April 2019: Nojajile Ndlwayivulwa, 89, has been voting since 1994 but according to her granddaughter she might not vote this time because of poor health. Next to her on the bed is her great-granddaughter, Linamandla, 3.

‘Rise of the red berets’

At the river, father of four Siphiwo Sivungu, 52, was drawing water. Dressed in blue overalls, Sivungu said collecting water is a daily reality for many living in the village.

Sivungu’s house stands on a hill overlooking Holomisa’s house. He said villagers have fallen ill from drinking the water. A former worker at an orange farm, Sivungu said his wife is now burdened with fending for their family after he lost his job last year. “I need a job,” he said gravely.

Sivungu is a loyal, card-carrying member of the UDM.

Young people idling along the pathways of the undeveloped village, some herding livestock, expressed different views.

EFF supporter Luthando Sithentho, 21, was unapologetic about his confidence in party leader Julius Malema. Although EFF campaign banners were not seen in the village, Sithentho said the party is gaining momentum in the area. “You will see the rise of the red berets on voting day.”

Only a few of the UDM’s “Prosperity and dignity for all” banners were visible.

25 April 2019: Unemployed EFF member, Luthando Momoza, 21, is excited about the election. He believes that the youth should lead South Africa.

‘We just want a better life’

Dressed in EFF regalia, Sithentho has no money to further his studies. He cited the party’s call for free higher education and job creation, and its strong stance on ANC corruption as reasons why he will vote for the EFF at the polls.

“My sisters and brother have graduated, but they are idling in the village with their education because there are no jobs. So, why should I vote for the ANC when we live in poverty?”

Unemployed and hardened by life, Sithentho is one of the many young voices calling for a change of leadership in the area. “Julius Malema is fighting the ANC corruption, we just want a better life.”

Vuyo Dayimane, 26, said that getting a job will ease the burden on his mother, who is the sole breadwinner for his family of three. He relies on menial jobs to make extra money for household goods.

“How can I marry someone when I can barely take care of myself? We have no jobs and the future does not look promising.”

Mqanduli falls under the King Sabata Dalindyebo Local Municipality. Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2018 showed that the Eastern Cape had the highest unemployment rate at 45.8%.

During an interview with New Frame, Holomisa said “That is why EFF has shown growth, because of desperation. The youth is looking for solutions.” But he was unfazed by the EFF’s growth and said he is happy that young voters are participating in democracy.

25 April 2019: (From left) Buyisile Momoza, 56, and Vuyo Dayimane, 26, love UDM leader Bantu Holomisa but have not decided which party they will support.

UDM manifesto and policies

Defending his party’s record, Holomisa cited manifesto focus points that mainly centre on economic growth, job creation and anticorruption.

When it comes to renewing the economy and creating jobs, a UDM government would adopt pro-poor economic growth policies that seek to redistribute income, eradicate poverty, reduce inequality and ensure dignity and prosperity for all South Africans.

Holomisa said the government should do away with provinces in order to support failing municipalities across the country because “provinces are nothing but glorified homelands”.

Referring to the recent protests in Alexandra, Johannesburg, Holomisa said municipalities are expected to deliver services despite revenue collection problems that the authorities faced. He recommended that the entire system should be overhauled.

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Holomisa said the R20 billion salary bill for councillors across the country could be redirected for service delivery. “There’s a need for government to go back to basics and review the three tiers [municipal, provincial and national] of government.”

Citing violent protests flaring up across the country, Holomisa said the country is marching towards a second revolution and that the UDM is not willing to serve in a Cabinet with those implicated in the Bosasa and Gupta scandals.

The party held its final election campaign rally at the Khutsong Stadium in Carletonville in Gauteng on 4 May.

Holomisa said the UDM will engage in coalition talks, but will not tolerate bullying by parties with bigger numbers.

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