South Africa

South Africa

Western Cape ANC: Concern about Fransman’s leadership grows

While Western Cape ANC chairman Marius Fransman has dismissed weekend reports of his involvement in a “votes for cash” scandal, the truth is there is growing concern within the party about its current provincial leadership. For several months ANC branch members have discussed strategies that aim to return power in the party to branches and restore its tattered credibility in the province. Preparations for the recent ANC 103rd birthday celebrations, too, exposed weaknesses in provincial leadership. By MARIANNE THAMM.

From allegations that he fraternises with dubious businessmen as well as other known underworld figures to “buying” votes for cash from minstrel troupes in the Western Cape, ANC provincial chairperson Marius Fransman is facing increasing internal party pressure as regional and provincial structures prepare to meet at the end of March to elect new leadership.

And while the current ANC leadership in the province might dismiss allegations and charges as emanating from those with “dark, ulterior motives” or disgruntled former DA members, the truth is ANC members in the region have long been unhappy with what is viewed as the divisive and ineffective leadership of Fransman and the ANC WC provincial secretary, Songezo Mjongile.

For several months now ANC branches have been meeting to discuss strategies which hope to restore power to ANC branches in order to hold leadership to account as well as break the decades-long stranglehold of destructive “factionalism” and a “winner-takes-all” ethos. Those concerned are seeking a more consensus-based “win-win” leadership approach.

The state of disarray in the Western Cape ANC is, of course, reflected in its poor election results over the past decade. The party has not been able to convince Western Cape to vote for it since 2009 when it lost the province to the DA. The ANC lost the City of Cape Town to the DA in 2006.

But the serious fissures in the Western Cape ANC became evident in the week running up to the ANC’s 103rd birthday celebrations in Cape Town when top NEC members arrived to find arrangements for the event chaotic and in disarray. It is clear that the NEC is dissatisfied with the provincial leadership’s electoral performance and it has been reported that Fransman has been requested to provide reasons why the current PEC should not be disbanded.

On the Monday before the ANC’s 103rd birthday celebrations in Cape Town on 10 January, top NEC members arrived in the province in preparation for the event. A party insider said that programmes had been developed from ministries to drum up support and the top six from the NWC were dispatched to various regions.

On the day of the birthday, 8 January, NEC members Jeff Radebe, Tulas Nxesi and Bheki Cele met with Andile Lili’s Ses’khona Peoples Right Movement, which has been sidelined by current provincial leadership, and asked the organisation to assist with the rally,” said the insider.

While Fransman accompanied President Zuma on a tour of the townships, the three NEC members addressed a full house of mainly ANC members of Ses’khona, clearly demonstrating their support for the movement.

Ses’khona told NEC members that it was calling for a national intervention in the ANC Western Cape, as the movement believed that the regional and the provincial elective conferences would not be administratively fair and transparent. The organisation claims their membership of the ANC is being blocked by the current administration and that thousands of ANC applications were being turned down by the regional office.

Tensions between Lili and Mjongile were exacerbated in November last year when Lili was shot and wounded in what the organisation claimed was “a politically motivated hit” that attempted to “silence Ses’Khona”.

In March 2014, the NEC reinstated Lili and fellow Ses’Khona leader Loyiso Nkohla’s membership of the ANC after they had both been suspended by the party’s provincial leaders for bringing the party into disrepute after their “poo protests” in the city.

With regard to the 103rd celebrations, the ANC insider said that members had been encouraged not to work along factional lines “for the sake of unity” and to get as many people as possible from the Western Cape to the stadium. While Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane – who was part of the organising committee and who is close to Mjongile – embarked on a “formal” programme, an additional process was set up by Luthuli House to meet with branches behind the scenes.

The key thing was transport and the buses. We mobilised communities and signed up a lot of people who filled in forms to get on the busses,” said the insider.

On the day of the rally, many of the party’s loyal supporters were left stranded as busses were redirected to transport the minstrels, who were due to perform at the stadium.

We started getting calls from people saying ‘we’re here on the R300 (highway), waiting for the bus’. We had mobilised these communities to come out and they did. We were trying to work from the bottom up.”

A key ideological issue in relation to the minstrels and Fransman in the Western Cape is his attempt at the “cultural mobilisation” of the coloured vote.

You can’t moblise coloured people culturally. Yes, we love the klopse, it is part of our psyche, but we also love Slamseness (being Muslim), we love cricket. The klopse does not provide a political identity,” said the insider.

This weekend the Sunday Times reported that Fransman, a patron of the minstrels, had offered between R700,000 and R1 million to troupes if they supported the ANC and performed at President Zuma’s birthday rally in April last year. He had, reported the Sunday Times, placed himself “in a compromised position” by meeting leaders of the Cape District Minstrel Board and offering them money.

The plan, said the report, had backfired when its intended beneficiaries, the Cape minstrel troupes, had wanted him to make good on the promises.

Fransman had also allegedly boasted that he had handed out over R27.5 million to the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association, headed by Richard “Pot” Stemmet – who has alleged links to the Cape Town underworld – as well as funding Melwyn Matthew’s Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association.

This is over and above the R27.64 million Stemmet’s association had received over three years from the National Lotteries Board.

On Monday, the Western Cape ANC released a statement dismissing newspaper reports as “fabrications” and part of a “smear campaign by people with dark, ulterior motives” and denying that Fransman had offered anyone cash in exchange for votes.

For the 103rd celebration organisers had wanted a full stadium with even the field packed with local supporters but in the end had to rely on members being bussed in from other regions.

Were it not for Mpumalanga, Free State and the Eastern Cape – PE alone sent 10 buses – the stadium would not have been as full as it was,” said one activist.

One of Fransman’s more controversial associations has been with Mark Lifman – a bouncer and co-owner of the security company Specialised Protection Services (SPS) and who is facing more than 300 charges of fraud. Lifman was photographed at President Zuma’s 72nd birthday party rally at Vygieskraal Stadium in April where minstrel troupes performed.

Fransman has maintained that Lifman’s presence at the rally was nothing extraordinary and reportedly said “this is a free country…Mark Lifman has a right to attend our rallies”.

Lifman and his partner André Naudé were previously associated with assassinated underworld figure Cyril Beeka.

The ANC in the region has a past tradition of non-racialism and bridge building between the province’s fractured coloured and black communities but this has been severely compromised and eroded through factional leadership battles that has split and divided membership.

Fransman and Mjongile were elected to provincial leadership positions in 2011 after a bitter struggle between former Western Cape Premier Ebrahim Rasool and then secretary Mcebisi Skwatsha. At the time Skwatsha refused to stand for nomination claiming that proceedings had been “fraudulent”. The top four positions were unopposed at the time.

An ANC investigation later found that Rasool had paid two Argus journalists with public funds to write positive stories about him while discrediting the “Africanist camp” which supposedly consisted then of Skwatsha, former premier and current Minister of Public Enterprises, Lynne Brown, and the veteran Max Ozinsky.

It is these ongoing battles that have prompted some ANC activists to attempt to return to ANC structures and re-assign power to the branches to hold leadership accountable.

There are several stumbling blocks the ANC faces in the Western Cape including dwindling membership, weak branches and non-existent campaigns rooted in communities. For several months there have been informal discussions in branches across the province about ANC leadership and what could be accomplished organisationally to “restore hope” and heal divisions in working class communities in the province.

The party failed to register over 1 million potential voters for the 2014 elections and voter turnout dropped significantly in “African areas”.

There is a now a move to ensure that current leadership is held accountable for the party’s performance – or lack of it – in the past five years and that a new leadership – whoever this might be – is elected that can unify and provide a political programme driven by branches and rooted in communities.

There is a need for more extensive political education amongst members in the province and a return to the values and traditions of the ANC. The party should be leading people’s daily struggles instead of narrow self-interest. What does it mean to be a comrade? What are the values cultures and principles that we should re-introduce? Solidarity, caring, working within the collective and not merely the accessing of recourses for personal gain, patronage or to wield influence,” said one activist.

The party’s decidedly lacklustre performance as an opposition party in the provincial legislature where Fransman lacks “gravitas” is also being discussed.

The current attempt by Minister of Police, Nathi Nhleko, to remove the head of the Hawks, Anwa Dramat, has not gone down well either in the province where Dramat is well-liked and enjoys significant support. Dramat is viewed as part of a generation of loyal ANC members who sacrificed their youth for the movement and who is now being sidelined for doing his job. Dramat had been exonerated by the Independent Police Investigative Directorate with regard to his alleged role in the illegal rendition of four Zimbabweans in November 2010. It was only when he requested files on the upgrades to President Zuma’s home at Nkandla that he was suspended.

Dramat’s suspension as well as Fransman’s controversial leadership can only worsen the ANC’s already weak standing in the province particularly in the run-up to the 2016 local elections. But there is an old cadre of leadership who cut their teeth their teeth in the 1980s who are willing to attempt to “save” the ANC – mostly from itself.

Good people must go back to the ANC to make the ANC good again,” said the activist. DM

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