The former homeland areas of the Eastern Cape have been an electoral gold mine for the ANC. In 2009 the party received 81% of the votes cast in these areas, and in 2014, 82.5%. Even with the carnage of the 2016 local government elections, when the ANC lost control of Nelson Mandela Bay, Joburg and Tshwane, the former Transkei and Ciskei held strong for the ANC. Only the UDM of Bantu Holomisa, himself a former Transkei leader, provided some token opposition. In 2019 things stayed much the same — 82.5% of the vote went to the ANC, with the EFF and a much-reduced UDM picking up the scraps.

Nothing to see here, then. Perhaps this particular part of SA is simply immune to the political storms that occupy the urban centres? Perhaps not. The Xolobeni area has, over the past decade or more, been the site of intense conflict, both political and at times physical. The bone of contention is the titanium in the sand dunes of the Wild Coast — dunes that are the communal property of those l...

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