Fight for the Western Cape: Fransman firefight

Marius Frasman. (David Harrison, M&G)

Marius Frasman. (David Harrison, M&G)

The only province not governed by the ANC.

The ANC fired the first salvo this week, with its provincial chairperson Marius Fransman, who is also deputy minister for international relations and co-operation, claiming that the ruling Democratic Alliance benefits from the fire and flooding disasters, which are common in the informal settlements around Cape Town.

The DA responded by questioning Fransman's intellectual ability. DA provincial leader Ivan Meyer said Fransman has "downgraded his IQ to zero level".

Meyer said it was a pity that the ANC was playing politics when people were hurting and angry. "Anybody who thinks like that simply exposes his level of intellect," he said.

In a wide-ranging interview with the Mail & Guardian this week, Fransman claimed that it was in the DA's interest to keep people displaced because that is not the DA's voting base.

He said the provincial ANC, which has started its campaign for next year's election will go all out to expose the DA for "favouring its rich white constituency" over poor black communities in delivering services.

He said it was in the DA's interest that fires must take place because in the fires, the poor people, who vote for the ANC, lose IDs (Identity Documents), which are vital during elections.

"I'm not saying that they are causing the fire, but it's in the interest of the DA that people in Khayelitsha are constantly traumatised and or displaced.

"The DA's base vote is 90% of the white constituency in the Western Cape, registered to vote and 90 percent of them do vote.
It's a stable vote, a secure vote. If you want to mess up your opposition, you are comfortable when there is displacement, you are comfortable when they are disorientated," he said.

Fransman said the recent fire in Khayelitsha on New Year's Day where about 1000 shacks were destroyed and five people died was one example of how the DA does not care about poor black people.

He said the area in which the fire happened had been identified by the City of Cape Town for the last five years for corrective measures to make it a livable settlement. The shacks were built on a slope and there were no firebreaks.

"But they did nothing about it, which is a serious problem. They've argued that they'll give people serviced sites or make enough service sites available instead of building more houses, and this they didn't provide.

"This is an infrastructural issue, an issue of a community which for many years lived there and that was given a commitment that it will be resolved. The funding was there but nothing was done," said Fransman.

The City of Cape Town said in a statement this week that it has been communicating with the community of BM section about an upgrade project for the area and there have been numerous engagements over a long period of time. "Any suggestions that the City has not been active in the community to ensure that it is upgraded in a caring and dignified manner are completely untrue," said the statement.

It said the BM Section is one of five City pilot projects, which will see social, safety and service upgrades as part of an in situ development approach. The ultimate aim is to provide security of tenure and service to the residents. The City has been negotiating with the various landowners concerned to purchase land. Itadded that the institutional setup, election of the community leadership, and a baseline survey has already been completed, and the development of a local strategy (a Community Action Plan) is currently in progress.

Fransman claimed that the neither Western Cape Premier Helen Zille nor any of the City's senior managers visited the site in the first three days after the tragedy.

Ideological distinction
"As tragic as it is, when the cyclist died (South African Olympic cyclist, Burry Stander), the premier was available. (Yet) we've got five people who died in a poor community, a 1 000 families displaced and no one comes.

"It says to us, the ANC shouldn't complain about that. It must understand this is the ideological distinction between it and the Democratic Alliance. It's not in the space of the DA to help the poor," said Fransman.

Zille hit back saying: "That is the most opportunistic, racist rubbish I've ever heard."

Zille, who is also a keen cyclist and has been cycling around the Cape over the past year, said she went to Stander's memorial ride in the evening, a day after his death.

She added that she had had several meetings in the BM Section over a period of time including planning meeting for the upgrading of the area.

Fransman didn't spare his Western Cape ANC comrades saying that the ANC structures need to "rapidly jack ourselves up".

He said while the deadly Khayelitsha fire took place around 5am on January 1, he only heard about it around 11.30am that day.

More vigilant structures
"I was very angry about that. My problem is that our structures were supposed to pick that up. Our councillors were supposed to pick that up, the region was supposed to pick it up. They all didn't.

"There is an issue to sort out with our structures. We can't live in a situation where our base community, the poorest of the poor are affected and the chairperson of the ANC in the province gets the information accidentally from a friend driving past Khayelitsha."

He said the ANC would get more active in the province and structures more vigilant. "We can't allow ANC structures to sleep when a 1000 families have lost their homes."

He said the ANC will no longer just complain about these things, but "go in defence of our people", which is having strong activism structures on the ground.

Fransman cited the successful Save Our Schools campaign, which the provincial ANC led, to fight the closure of 27 schools in the province as one of the successes of the new activism

Last month, the Western Cape High Court halted the closure of the schools and a final review application on the matter would be heard later this month.

"Imagine if we didn't raise the closure of schools issue… 4 500 children, 27 schools and between 150 to 200 teachers would have been affected," he said.

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