UDM slams ‘blank cheque’ in hunt for Mhlontlo councillor

Colleagues joined K9 search and rescue unit, friends and family during the search for Nolundi Ludidi in the Bhisho area.
Colleagues joined K9 search and rescue unit, friends and family during the search for Nolundi Ludidi in the Bhisho area.
Image: Michael Pinyana

The cost of a “hunt” for Mhlontlo councillor Nolundi Ludidi, who went missing before being found in a fast food outlet four days later, has been slammed by the UDM.

The party claims the struggling council signed a “blank cheque” when a team of politicians and officials went from Mhlontlo to King William’s Town in search of Ludidi, who went missing while hitchhiking between Tsolo and Port Elizabeth.

UDM councillor Zakheni Nondaka claims municipal funds were spent on fuel, catering and accommodation “for a number of people”, including mayor Nompumelelo Dywili.

At the time, they feared Ludidi had been kidnapped or even killed. Ludidi, the municipality’s special programmes unit portfolio head, disappeared on August 31, last seen hitchhiking to Port Elizabeth where she was to meet up with her boyfriend.

She was seen alighting a white Isuzu bakkie bound for Mthatha. Hours later she sent a voice note to friends saying she had taken a lift from Mthatha to King William’s Town.

She later sent three WhatsApp voice notes to her boyfriend where she could be heard asking the driver why he was taking her to an isolated bushy area near Bhisho. The last voice note was recorded just after 9pm on August 31, before her phone went dead.

A missing person case was opened in Tsolo on September 1. Police went on a two-day search for her in bushy areas around Bhisho.

A number of her ANC comrades, including Dywili, sport, recreation, arts & culture MEC Fezeka Bayeni and social development MEC Siphokazi Mani-Lusithi, took up the search.

Ludidi was found four days later in King William’s Town, with Mani-Lusithi at the time saying she was “not in a good state when we found her”.

Police said Ludidi told them she had been kept against her will in a house in Fort Beaufort, from which she later escaped.

Police spokesperson Captain Khaya Tonjeni on Wednesday said investigations around Ludidi’s alleged “disappearance” continued. In a letter to Dywili, dated September 20, Nondaka said the UDM needed a “clear explanation as to what has driven our municipality to commit such gross irregular and frivolous expenditure”.

“We need clarity because there is no policy in place guiding council on allocation of money for the search of missing councillors or officials”.

He cited a special council meeting on September 3 where a resolution was taken to release funds for those interested in joining the search in Bhisho.

“By doing so, council signed a blank cheque because we were not informed of any amount for such trip, what the money was used for, or the number of people we paid for to travel there. There was no money budgeted for that, and such funds were taken from money meant to service the people of Mhlontlo, hence we demand answers”.

Attempts to get comment from Ludidi failed.