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27 June 2016 16:58 (South Africa)
South Africa

Marius Fransman's sexual assault charge & Western Cape ANC's tipping point

  • Marianne Thamm
    marianne-thamm.jpg
    Marianne Thamm
  • South Africa
Photo: Marius Fransman at a news conference in Johannesburg on Monday, 11 June 2012.
(Department of International Relations & Cooperation/SAPA)

The ANC in the Western Cape will limp into the municipal election this year if it does not decisively deal with the serious allegation that its provincial chair, Marius Fransman, sexually assaulted a 20-year-old employee en route to the party's 104th birthday celebrations last week. Also the party's recently-elected provincial secretary, veteran activist Faiez Jacobs, who holds the keys to the party's membership, was also placed on an illegal “precautionary suspension” after an altercation at the party's head-office in December. Apart from its own internal divisions, the ANC will also face a further electoral threat with the announcement by NUMSA that it will be launching a workers' party this year. By MARIANNE THAMM.

This morning (Tuesday) the Western Cape ANC will meet to decide on the fate of its controversial Provincial Chair Marius Fransman in the lead up to the crucial municipal elections later this year. Fransman is facing serious charges that he sexually assaulted a 20-year-old recent employee en route to the ANC's 104 birthday celebration in Rustenberg at the weekend. How the party deals with its chairperson is bound to impact seriously on its already dismal performance in the province.

The ANC has subsequently denied that some North West and NEC members attempted to have the case withdrawn or that the North West Provincial Commissioner interfered in the investigation. The ruling party has also dismissed charges that anyone attempted to coerce the woman to withdraw the case or that she had been offered a bribe.

Nevertheless, the allegations have shocked local ANC members and driven further rifts in the faction-ridden party, with angry posts on Facebook walls by those who support Fransman, who is pro-Zuma, and those who will be pleased to see the back of him.

Many regard Fransman as a bully, arrogant and a law unto himself and that his continued leadership of the party only serves the DA's electoral dominance and support in the province. Fransman's leadership has been marred by scandal, allegations of connections to known underworld figures in the region, his penchant for wild partying as well cultivating networks of patronage in the province. To say nothing of the party's dismal electoral performance under his leadership.

While Fransman at first denied the accusation and later intimated that “there was more behind this” he has subsequently stated that the investigation should be allowed to be completed. But insiders say the party's top five leadership, deputy chair Khaya Maxaga, provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs, who is currently on an illegal “cautionary suspension”, deputy secretary Thandi Manyikivana and treasurer Maurencia Gillion, will be faced with a dilemma as two members support Fransman while two do not. The matter will be referred to the provincial working committee and the provincial executive committee for a decision as to whether Fransman will be suspended pending the outcome of the police investigation.

The party's local leadership is in deep crisis as in December this year Jacobs, a veteran and respected activist in the region, was placed on a “cautionary suspension” after an altercation with a researcher, Wesley Seale, at the party's head office in Cape Town. Seale has laid a charge of assault while Jacobs has laid a counter charge. Jacobs' suspension, however, is being challenged as proper procedures were not followed. He has since been on leave but returned to the party's offices yesterday.

Patricia de Lille, DA Western Cape leader has called on the ANC to suspend Fransman, saying “When assault allegations against Faiez Jacobs (ANC provincial secretary) came out a few weeks ago, after a male ANC staff member was left with a bloodied face, the ANC suspended him right away. Yet when the victim is a woman, new to the ANC staff ranks, we see dithering and delays in suspending the accused leader, Marius Fransman.”

Tensions between the Fransman and Jacobs and those who support them have been growing since the party's 8th Provincial elective conference in June last year; Fransman was caught off guard when the low-key Jacobs ousted Fransman's ally Songezo Mjongile for the position of provincial secretary. (Jacobs garnered 338 of a total of 600 votes.) Fransman, who came to the conference without enough support to be re-elected was, however, maintained as chair “in the interests of continuity”.

Divisions in the party and unease about Fransman's leadership have long been the source of major discomfort among many who have watched the party's support haemorrhage in the province. Fransman's first term in office was such a disaster that the party's national executive committee considered ousting him.

But Fransman is a seasoned politician and while at first the party emerged from the June elective conference showing a united front and vowing to end factionalism, revitalise the organisation and build bridges and neglected branches in the region, old schisms soon erupted.

A month later, after the unveiling of the Clanwilliam Dam Project, allegations emerged that a member of the provincial PEC, Magdalene Titus, had informed NEC member Nomvula Mokonyane that the Western Cape ANC would not be giving its support to President Jacob Zuma at the National General Council that took place in October 2015. Jacobs was drawn into the controversy when ANC treasurer in the West Coast region, Danville Smith, wrote to him to complain about Titus' comment. Titus later said that her remarks had been made in private.

Jacobs, part of the “Unity in Diversity” group within the Western Cape ANC, has, since his election, embarked on an extensive campaign to reconnect with branches, recruit new members as well as encourage old members to rejoin the party to offer their expertise. This grouping has publicly vowed the oust “power-hungry elites preoccupied with slate politics” and to ensure that candidates who stand for the party in the municipal election are vetted, capable of doing the job and are responsive to the communities they represent. Jacobs spent much of the year connecting with community groups and attempting to build bridges across religious and class divides.

The role of ANC provincial secretary, regarded as the “engine” of the party in the region, is one of the most powerful on the ANC's provincial executive committees. It is the secretary who oversees membership, who liaises with regional and branch secretaries and who has a say on who sits on the party's regional disciplinary and other committees. Provincial secretaries are responsible for the party's regional organisational reports, the most important indication of the health and state of the party. The chairperson, to all intents and purposes then, is a ceremonial as well as political appointment.

While Fransman might be the face of the party, Jacobs holds enormous power and his current “suspension” needs to be urgently resolved in the light of the serious charges Fransman will have to fight.

Meanwhile, while the beleaguered party not only has to face the considerable electoral support the DA enjoys in the region but will also be competing with further threats, the EFF and the launch of a workers party later this year.

In a “New Year” statement NUMSA's Irvin Jim announced that a task team was “already hard at work drafting programmes and structures for a new workers’ political party”.

Jim said that the programmes would be put to the Numsa Central Committee and the membership and that there was “an overwhelming need for a socialist party, democratically controlled from below by the working class. The ANC leadership has fallen into the hands of the white monopoly capitalist elite, with the adoption of first GEAR and then the National Development Plan, both of which commit them to enforcing orthodox neoliberal economic policies.”

NUMSA's goal, he added was to build a “democratically controlled mass workers’ party which will destroy the whole capitalist system and replace it with a socialist society in which the country’s wealth is owned, controlled and managed democratically by the majority of the people, who, by and large, are the working class”.

While the party will be “ultra leftist”, it is bound to appeal to those voters in the region looking for an alternative to the ANC and who might not be ready or willing to jump ship to the DA or the EFF. Any new player to the left, if the party registers in time for the municipal elections, will eat into the ANC's potential support.

The Western Cape ANC is at a tipping point and how it deals with Fransman's continued role as its leader as well as the serious of the allegations of sexual assault, will determine whether it has any future in the region. DM

Photo: Marius Fransman at a news conference in Johannesburg on Monday, 11 June 2012. (Department of International Relations & Cooperation/SAPA)

  • Marianne Thamm
    marianne-thamm.jpg
    Marianne Thamm
  • South Africa

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