Grahamstown is set for a low voter turnout in the local government elections on May 18 with the poor in the area expected to avoid casting their ballots over disillusionment with "self serving" politicians.
Ayanda Kota, the chairperson of the Unemployed Peoples' Movement in Grahamstown, says "oppression" at the hands of the African National Congress (ANC) has driven the poor in the area to rebel by not casting their ballots.
"There has been no fundamental difference made to the poor since the end of apartheid," Kota says.
"The ANC are not the party of the people. We cannot accept a society of sushi parties, BEE [Black Economic Empowerment] deals for the rich, broken RDP houses, hopelessness, joblessness, rape, prison and murder for the poor.
"The debates within the ANC are debates between those who think that they can get away with naked oppression – rubber bullets for some and sushi parties for others."
Despite its opposition to the ANC, Kota says the UPM and its followers do not believe there is any political party that will make a difference to the poor – whether it is the ANC, the Democratic Alliance or the Congress of the People.
"We don't believe in any of the parties that are campaigning or that any of them will make a difference," he says.
In the townships around Grahamstown, people complain of neglect, haphazard services and poor infrastructure.
Families in Thembeni, Zolani and Tantyi are still using bucket toilets, despite promises from politicians in previous elections that these would "soon be a thing of the past".
"They tarred the roads in the townships, but we didn't want a tarred road," says a man living in Zolani. "We want houses and toilets first.
"The road is for those who have the money for cars. The people living here don't have cars."
Kota says people are living without water all over the townships around Grahamstown. When they do receive water, it is often "unfit for human consumption".
A shortage of work is another widely-heard complaint. Kota believes that 70% of the people in Grahamstown's Makana municipality are without permanent work.
"Half of Grahamstown does not have toilets, 17 years into democracy," he says.
"Unemployment is around 70% and the jobs that do exist are allocated on the basis of party political loyalty."
Another problem in the area is violent crime against women. Around 40 cases of rape were reported last December. There have also been "a number of killings."
"There are no lights on the streets. That is part of the problem," Kota says. "The women and girls in Grahamstown are being attacked."
A UPM protest after the rape and murder of Zingiswa Centwa, a Grade 12 pupil from Nombulelo High School, sparked off a mini "Tahir Square" incident last year, says Kota.
"We applied for permission to protest and complied with all our obligations in law to stage a legal march, but the Makana Municipality said that our march was prohibited.
"We could not accept a unilateral and unlawful ban on our right to protest and so we went ahead with the march. They want to deny the oppressed the right to disrupt the system that oppresses us. They want to deny us the right to demonstrate our anger."
UPM members then staged a sit-in at the municipal offices.
"We organised our own little Tahir Square here in Grahamstown," he says referring to the uprising in Egypt earlier this year.
"We occupied the municipal offices for the whole day. They closed the offices and sent the workers home. We were eventually promised a meeting with the mayor within 48 hours but it did not happen."
The "anger" started when the police arrived to move the group out "by force".
"People felt that they were being treated like criminals when they were having genuine demands and questions."
The protest was dispersed, but people in Phaphamani, Joza and Phumlani spontaneously organised blockades of the streets.
In Phaphamani people burnt tyres and dug up the new tar road as a form of protest.
The Democratic Alliance's (DA's) campaign manager in Grahamstown, Michael Whisson, says the view among people is that the town's municipality is "run down" and "fractured".
"Buckets were supposed to be eliminated in 2007 in Grahamstown, but they are still prevalent.
"In 2006, the Grahamstown municipality was instructed to build 1 000 houses a month, but since then there have been no new houses at all.
"All in all, there is a sense that the municipality is run down," he says. "The municipality appears to be in a fractured state."
Whisson expects "incredible apathy" for the May 18 election, but whether this will help the his party increase its four seats the 28 seat municipality is uncertain.
"There is incredible apathy among voters this time round," says Whisson.
"Many people are saying they are not going to vote. Whether this counts in the DA's favour remains to be seen."
Most students at the town's Rhodes University are also unlikely to vote as they are not registered in town.
"Most of the students live more than 100km from Rhodes and are registered elsewhere," says Whisson.
"The University has also been very strict about allowing activities on campus. My guess is that there will be a low voter turnout."
Makana municipality spokesman Thandy Matebese says the municipality has done its best to meet the needs of the poor. One of its major achievements, he says, was meeting the 2007 deadline to eradicate the bucket system in formal areas built before 1994.
He says roads in townships have also been upgraded and tarred and that a R90-million housing project is set for completion next year, with the Eluxolweni and Fingo among those who are set to benefit.
Kota says the UPM, although it does not believe in political parties, respects the right of people to vote.
"We believe people have the right to vote or not to vote. Voting is a choice. This social movement of ours will have the financial muscle to take on the ruling party. They can buy food parcels and buy votes. There's no democracy in that."
He warns that if the poor remain neglected, South Africa could soon be heading for its own "Tahir Square" .
"I don't know when our Tahir Square will happen. It could be a year or two years or three. It won't come from an individual. It will happen when the poor of South Africa organise themselves in protest. That day will come when we least expect it."