Cape ANC cries foul over 'parallel' office

A volunteer initiative could rip the already highly factional provincial ANC apart. (David Harrison, M&G)

A volunteer initiative could rip the already highly factional provincial ANC apart. (David Harrison, M&G)

It could also  rip the already highly factional provincial ANC apart.

The Chris Hani volunteer detachment was launched amid much fanfare in Cape Town on April 10 during the 20th commemoration of former South African Communist Party general secretary Chris Hani's death.

The Western Cape ANC described the volunteers as "part of the group that will work towards a united election drive in line with the provincial plan, People's Path to Power 2014, to build a nonracial, nonsexist, equal and just Western Cape".

But at least five senior ANC members in the province, including a regional leader, are claiming that the initiative is being misused by provincial chair Marius Fransman for his own political gain.

The bone of contention is an office from which the volunteers are operating. Members claim that the volunteers' office, set up by Fransman in an industrial area in Observatory, is running in parallel to the provincial office in the city centre.

The Observatory office is said to be a fully fledged, modern office, staffed with ANC members who have recently rejoined the party from the Congress of the People.

ANC members also claim that Fransman is personally paying for the office.

A regional leader who did not want to be named said the new office was issuing separate instructions to regional leaders about matters relating to elections to those that came from the provincial office.

Running in parallel
"We are also concerned that the money used to run this other office could be used for the benefit of the organisation. The provincial office is operating on the bare minimum, for instance," said a member.

ANC provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile distanced himself from the Observatory office, referring all questions to Fransman.

"I'm not aware of any office in Observatory. The only provincial office is Sahara House [in Cape Town]. Maybe the chairman will tell you about it," he said.

Mjongile said that, as far as he knew, the ANC had not got to the point where the volunteer programme was "operationalised".

Fransman, who originally told the Mail & Guardian about the Observatory office last month, denied this week that the office was running in parallel to the provincial office. He said the matter of volunteers was discussed extensively at a provincial executive committee lekgotla, where it had been agreed that the initiative was a sectoral outreach programme beyond normal ANC branch and regional structures.

"I think there is a little bit of mischief-making and jealousy," said Fransman.

Mob of distractors
Asked who was paying the rent for the Observatory office, he said the party had been offered the use of the space at no charge.

Meanwhile, the ANC is investigating the storming of its meeting in Oudtshoorn on Tuesday night. Fransman had to leave hastily when ANC members disrupted a meeting at the town's municipal offices where he was informing party structures about the proposed changes to the town council.

After an investigation by the party's monitoring and evaluation committee, led by deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte, the party recommended leadership change. Among those to be removed is current mayor Gordon April, a move opposed by some in the provincial and Southern Cape regional ANC.

The provincial ANC said a small mob of distractors had been primed to derail the meeting and prevent the ANC from taking corrective action in the Oudtshoorn administration.

Despite supporting each other to gain their elected positions in 2011, the relationship between Fransman and Mjongile has been strained in recent months.

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