South Africa

Op-Ed: Marius Fransman’s sexual assault charges – why the delay?

By Marianne Thamm 8 February 2016

Exactly a month has passed since a 20-year-old Cape Town woman alleged that she had been sexually assaulted by ANC Western Cape Chairperson Marius Fransman. While Fransman has been asked by the National office to step aside while the investigation is completed, it appears police are taking their time. Last week the DA claimed it was unable to find any trace of the case in its 10-day investigation. By MARIANNE THAMM.

The odds are stacked against most ordinary women in South Africa who report rape or sexual assault. Shockingly low conviction rates for crimes of this nature – only one in 20 of those that make it to court – do not act as a deterrent in a country where violence is a critical national issue, so much so that we choose annually to pay lip service, dedicating 16 days to highlighting it.

The odds then are doubly stacked for a young woman who accuses a powerful or politically-connected individual. Which is why, one would think, that the SAPS, the ANC as well as women’s rights lobby groups, would be invested in ensuring that the charges that former ANC Western Cape Chairperson Marius Fransman had allegedly sexually assaulted a 20-year old woman, are thoroughly probed and speedily resolved.

The young woman, who had travelled by car with Fransman and two other ANC officials en route to the party’s 104th anniversary celebration in Rustenberg, alleged that he had sexually assaulted her during the trip and then again later when the foursome had arrived at the Flamingo Hotel in Kimberley where she had allegedly been forced to share a bed with Fransman.

The woman lodged the charge with police in Sun City the following day, 6 January. Daily Maverick has obtained the case number and three enquiries to police in North West have met with the standard reply that the case “was still under investigation”.

On Monday Daily Maverick asked NW SAPS spokesperson, Colonel Sabata Mokgwabone, for a progress report on the investigation. Colonel Mokgwabone replied that he was currently on leave and that enquiries should be directed to Brigadier Leonard Hlati. At the time of writing Brigadier Hlati had not responded to our contact. Daily Maverick has learned that the case might be moved to the Northern Cape where the alleged offence took place but even this could not be confirmed.

Last week, Mark Wiley, the DA’s chief whip in the Western Cape legislature claimed that despite repeated enquiries “to at least six senior officers in the North West and the Northern Cape, the registrar in the legislature could not get confirmation about the investigating officer, the docket number, or the case number against Fransman.”

All of these aspects are requirements for a successful investigation,” said Wiley.

While the DA regionally may be invested in seeing the back of Marius Fransman and may seek to make political hay from the alleged case, the point is, withholding information from the media or anyone else asking questions serves to fuel speculation that a “cover up” is being engineered. It also does not foster any confidence that the matter is receiving the committed and impartial urgent attention required.

While all cases of rape or sexual assault should be a priority for the SAPS, this case is particularly crucial. Apart from considerable public interest it involves a high-profile politician who has allegedly abused his power.

While the ANC’s national office has recognised the severity of the charges and almost immediately asked Fransman to step aside, the SAPS appear to be less concerned with the growing disquiet at the apparent lack of progress.

The police inquiry can end in only two ways; either Fransman is charged and tried or the the NPA in the North West, or wherever the case has been moved to, decides not to prosecute. If the outcome is the latter, the NPA will have to provide a compelling reasons for its decision.

There are many unanswered questions surrounding the case. If Fransman is innocent, as he has maintained, then it is also in his interests that the matter is speedily resolved.

On Sunday Fransman, accompanied by his wife Philida and their children, attended at “prayer meeting” at the Shekinah Healing Ministries in Old Crossroads, an event organised by the “Friends of Marius Fransman”.

During a blessing, Reverend Deon Nkomfa reportedly told Fransman that “you are a chosen leader, God has chosen you. Father, we ask, protect him from the devil”.

Not surprisingly, Fransman’s young accuser, who remains in hiding, has been vilified on other public platforms. Fransman himself has claimed she was a “honey trap” set up by factions in the ANC who were out to “destroy him.”

However, the former leader has not satisfactorily explained how it was that the young woman came to find herself accompanying him on the road trip nor how she came to be offered a job, as she has claimed, only a few days prior Fransman’s departure for Rustenberg.

Fransman allegedly met the young woman at a wine farm in Stellenbosch that he regularly frequented. The woman suddenly resigned from the job at the wine farm at the start of the year.

Check in records the Flamingo Hotel in Kimberley will surely also prove or disprove the women’s charge that she was forced to share a room with Fransman.

What is most puzzling about the case is that a young woman would expose herself to such a high risk and possible prosecution in making a false accusation against a powerful man. And if she was indeed set up by nefarious forces in the ANC in the Western Cape, then these too risk exposure.

In a policy brief for the Institute of Security Studies, Lisa Vetten, who has worked for over 20 years in the field of violence against women, said women often did not report rape or sexual assault because of various fears including not being believed, the fear of retaliation by the offender, of the power and authority of the abuser and a fear of ostracism or ridicule. Many victims do not lay charges as they lack of confidence that the legal process will result in a conviction.

None of these fears apparently plagued the young woman including the fact that it will be her version of the event versus those of three powerful men who are friends of the alleged perpetrator.

Immediately after the woman had laid the charge City Press reported that the newspaper had confirmed with five independent sources within the ANC and the police that the woman had been pressured to withdraw the charges against Fransman.

They put a lot of pressure on her to withdraw. And it was people with money,” City Press reported a senior party member saying.

The paper also reported that North West police commissioner Major General Jacob Tsumane had attempted to withhold making public any information about the case.

Fransman now finds himself in a political wilderness while his young accuser’s life has been shattered. She has been forced to move out of her home as the saga drags on with little made public. In this case justice delayed is justice denied for both the accuser and the accused. DM

Photo: Marius Fransman (Wikimedia Commons)


In other news...

South Africa is in a very real battle. A political fight where terms such as truth and democracy can seem more of a suggestion as opposed to a necessity.

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However, it would be an offensive oversight not to acknowledge that right there on the front lines, alongside whistleblowers and civil society, stand the journalists. Armed with only their determination to inform society and defend the truth, caught in the crossfire of shots fired from both sides.

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