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ANALYSIS

Forget gang accusations — Plato, Fransman union shows political amnesia alive and well

Forget gang accusations — Plato, Fransman union shows political amnesia alive and well
Dan Plato and Marius Fransman at the People's Movement For Change media briefing, 13 February, 2024 in Cape Town. (Photo: Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

The public relations between the then-ANC’s Marius Fransman and the then-DA’s Dan Plato were once frosty. Plato was vocal about claims that ANC figures were linked to gangsters and seemed to think Fransman was a liar. But that’s now ancient political history.

In 2012, had the suggestion been made that Marius Fransman and Dan Plato were in the same political camp or shared a political vision, it would likely have sparked raucous laughter.

Plato was Western Cape Community Safety MEC at the time and with the DA.

Fransman was the ANC’s Western Cape leader.

To cut to the case, in November 2016 the ANC suspended Fransman for five years as he was found guilty of misconduct involving attempts to obtain sexual favours.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Out for the count: ANC suspends  Marius Fransman

Fransman and the ANC drifted apart.

As for Plato, well, his history involved joining the National Party in 1990 (which he later likened to the ANC in terms of corruption) and he went on to be Cape Town’s mayor twice under the DA.

But on Tuesday, 13 February 2024, it emerged Plato had left his DA home to join Fransman’s new party, the People’s Movement for Change.

Dan Plato and Marius Fransman

Dan Plato and Marius Fransman at the People’s Movement For Change (PMC) media briefing. (Photo: Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

Parted and united

Daily Maverick’s Velani Ludidi reported that some of the reasons Plato cited for parting with the DA was that: “The DA has moved away from its commitment to serving the needs of the most vulnerable in our society.

“The party seems to be stifling voices that do not align with a certain cabal, and critical outreach programmes designed to benefit the poor are being cancelled in the City of Cape Town and Western Cape government.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Dan Plato ditches DA over policies and Palestine, joins Marius Fransman’s new party

So, it seems, Plato, and Fransman are now on good terms.

And on the same political team.

‘People suffer’

On Tuesday when Plato was publicly welcomed to the People’s Movement for Change, Fransman acknowledged they were previously on opposing political sides.

Fransman also made some comments that, while he did not necessarily intend them to reference their past, pointed towards it.

“The party politicking in South Africa creates challenges for citizens of South Africa,” Fransman said.

“So, all the more that you have political fights, whether it’s in parties or against each other, all that we see is that… the people suffer.”

Rewind about a decade or so and there were tensions — some would call it fighting — involving Plato and Fransman, and between the ANC and DA.

Zuma and the gang claims

That, in turn, linked to the Western Cape being South Africa’s gangsterism capital.

And there were suspicions of extreme political underhandedness in terms of the province.

The Mail & Guardian had reported that then-president  Jacob Zuma met several top gangsters in May 2011 as part of a plan to wrest control of the Western Cape from the DA to the ANC.

“Zuma told the group that the ANC provincial leader, Marius Fransman, had his full support to win the province back for the ANC,” that report had alleged.

There were denials the meeting took place, with the ANC brushing off the report as a smear campaign.

It is against that backdrop that tensions between Plato and Fransman developed.

Dossier, ‘donation’ and a death

Around 2012 Plato, at that stage still firmly ensconced in all things DA, spoke to some journalists about a dossier he compiled.

Plato said it was based on communications with a controversial Western Cape businessman, Jeffrey Franciscus, who had been under investigation for fraud.

According to claims, Franciscus, who may have been present at the (denied) Zuma and gangster meeting in 2011, donated R2.4-million in mostly cash to the Western Cape ANC.

The dossier had also contained a letter apparently written and signed by Franciscus, dated October 2011.

In it, Franciscus referred to recorded conversations implicating business figures and ANC politicians that would prove that those recorded had planned to commit fraud.

Franciscus’s apparent letter also said he wanted to approach the South African Police Service because 28s prison gangsters had started threatening him that he would be killed if he spoke out.

About three weeks after the letter was dated, Franciscus died in a car accident in Cape Town in November 2011 — police did not suspect foul play but investigated culpable homicide.

Plato had then compiled the dossier based on conversations he said he’d had with Franciscus prior to the businessman’s death.

‘Politically motivated’ violence

Franciscus, according to claims that could not be verified because he had died, pointed to Fransman as being among a group conspiring to destabilise the Western Cape for political gain.

It was also alleged former policeman Jeremy Vearey, known for anti-gang strategies, was involved. (Vearey insisted the matter was part of a smear campaign against him.)

This all ended up in the media.

In 2012, IOL reported that the overall saga became the subject of heated debate in the Western Cape legislature.

Plato was quoted saying: “The violence we currently experience in the Western Cape is nothing other than politically motivated.”

He also stated: “Fransman is on record denying that he knew Jeff Franciscus, but I was with Franciscus at a restaurant when Fransman called him twice… And he still claims he doesn’t know him.”

That suggested Plato was calling Fransman a liar.

Drugs and guns claims

For his part, Fransman had denied that the ANC received money from Franciscus, saying the matter was a “concocted” one and that Franciscus had been mentally ill.

In 2013 more claims surfaced.

Another IOL article on what was happening in the provincial legislature said: “Senior members of the ANC and DA accused each other of being involved with gangs.

“The DA says it has affidavits from former gangsters that link ANC provincial chairman Marius Fransman and others to organised crime involving murder, drug smuggling and gun running.

“The ANC says it has recordings of Community Safety MEC Dan Plato befriending gangsters in an effort to defame ANC ministers.”

The situation boiled over into 2014 with a photograph appearing in the Sunday Times of Fransman along with organised crime suspect Mark Lifman, now an accused in a murder case, at Zuma’s birthday rally at a stadium in Cape Town.

As for Plato, he came under fire that year when suspected 28s gang boss Saliem John was convicted for various crimes in the Western Cape High Court.

The ANC’s provincial community safety spokesperson at the time, Dorothea Gopie, had said in a statement: “The ANC also notes that Saliem John is a close acquaintance of… Plato… [who] was even received at John’s house.

“This verdict vindicates the ANC’s position and confidence in our police and courts to deal with criminals.

“It does not vindicate MEC Plato’s… peace pipe smoking with gangsters that merely elevate criminals as so-called leaders of communities.”

Plato, who later countered that Gopie’s son was involved in gangs, had been known to hold so-called peace talks with gangsters while he was community safety MEC.

Dan Plato

Dan Plato. (Photo: Gallo Images/Misha Jordaan)

‘Manufactured information’

Fast-forward to 2016 and the ANC issued another statement about him.

“Plato is also known to regularly meet gangsters after their release to encourage them to manufacture information which falsely implicates his political opponents,” a section of the ANC statement had said.

“The ANC also believes that Plato has used Western Cape Government resources to cover up his involvement and close ties to these known gangsters.”

It is apparent that over the years extremely serious claims and counterclaims, extending from a provincial to a national level, have been exchanged between the ANC and DA — Fransman and Plato’s respective former political homes.

The claims have involved the duo plus broader effective accusations of politicians colluding with gangsters in a province struggling with related crimes and violence, and where children are often caught up in gun battles.

Forgive, forget, for now

But the shameful and worrying crossfire of claims, to some, is now simply in the past.

It seems this is especially so for Plato and Fransman who have become political buddies.

Fransman, on Tuesday, acknowledged that “for the better part of the last 20 years” he and Plato were basically political opponents.

He said, however, they always had respect for each other.

“Politics is about service to the nation, it’s not about service to your political structure,” Fransman added.

So, it seems the saying “forgive and forget” easily applies to politics.

But 2024 is an election year in South Africa, so anything can happen, plus the political arena is an especially fickle one.

And it could be that another two words should be lopped onto that saying so that it rather reads: “Forgive and forget. For now.” DM

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