UDM leader Holomisa ready to hand over baton to young blood

UDM founding president Bantu Holomisa says he is ready to hand over the baton to someone else after leading the party for almost 30 years since its formation in 2007.

Speaking to Sunday World Engage this week, Holomisa said he hoped that as the UDM prepares for its next national conference in December, he would encourage branches to look at someone else for the top position.

“I wish this time around these fellows could say, ‘you’ve done well; just go and play golf and travel the world’. That’s my wish,” said Holomisa.

“You see, once you’ve accepted that you’re the leader of a political party, it is difficult to say no when called to serve. I think it’s only one person who succeeded in telling the structures that, no, he will serve one term. That’s Mandela, and he served one term.

“I think I’ve done well to groom people in the UDM, so personally, I’m not married to be a life president of the UDM. When others are ready, they must show their hands, and we will choose; that’s democracy.”

Holomisa said he had, in the past three years, started tactically withdrawing from being the dominant face of the party.

His deputy, Nqabayomzi Kwankwa, has been playing a more prominent role and fielding television interviews as part of preparing the next layer of UDM leaders.

Kwankwa was not the only one, as Holomisa showered the 35-year-old UDM secretary-general Yongama Zigebe with praises as another rising star with great potential.

Said Holomisa: “I will weigh options; one of the options is to look at the political dinosaurs that are at Union Buildings and then systematically hand over the power to the youth. For instance, you have hardly seen me on television in the past two or three years. I have carved a niche for myself in the space.

“I’d rather grow the youth, hence the emergence of the likes of Kwankwa, hence the emergence of the current secretary general, who is 35 years old; he was writing his masters last year in November or December, and many others who are already councillors but have diplomas and degrees.”

The former Transkei military strongman denounced suggestions that he was hogging the UDM top position because he is a natural dictator.

According to him, if maintaining high discipline and order in the party as he had done for 27 years meant he was a dictator, that was an honour he would proudly wear on his shoulders.

Holomisa believes that the UDM has been intact because of his no-nonsense style of leadership, and he had no regrets about being the face of organisation for close to three decades because the same was the case with all parties where a president became the face.

“If you go to the ANC, they will say what will happen if Cyril Ramaphosa gets charged with Phala Phala. ‘Will we make it?’ they ask. You go to other parties like EFF and so on, and people are asking questions if they will ever make it without certain individuals,” he said.

Holomisa said his firm grip on the party had allowed for internal peace and fewer fights.

That was because of the skills he had learned during his days in the Transkei Defence Force, where he instilled discipline without flinching.

“I will credit the UDM for being one, if not the only, political party that has no internal squabbles. For instance, look at the launch of our manifesto. By 11 am everybody was seated, by 1 pm was lunch and everybody was eating, and by 2pm we cleaned the venue so we could go back home while there’s still light,” he said.

“So, it is that kind of discipline, if you want to say it is because of the military? Yes! I learned a lot from the military, and if you want to inculcate a culture of ownership among South African youth, I would favour the national conscription so that they can be taught lessons around patriotism and the planning cycle.

“If that’s the perception that I am a dictator, I accept it greatly, and it’s a compliment. Unfortunately, you are not going to remove that planning cycle I studied for many years about how to run an institution. That’s why in Transkei when we took over, we’d issue one statement, and everybody fell in line. I’d say call me a dictator, but that is not right. I don’t know; people can analyse my approach but I don’t stand nonsense.”

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