Fransman branded a bully in faction-riven Western Cape

The newly elected ANC Western Cape provincial leadership is battling to heal renewed divisions, for which members blame provincial chairperson Marius Fransman.

He has been described by some in his party as “an island, lone runner and a bully” who is trying to regain power in a provincial executive committee (PEC) whose majority is not aligned to him.

The leadership committee was inducted over the weekend, but there was no sign of the unity that was sold to members following the June elective congress.

In little over a month after Fransman’s re-election, some PEC members suspect he is working to collapse the leadership structure and using the party’s internal disciplinary processes against members who disagree with him.

Fransman was elected unopposed after threatening to pull out during nominations because of internal power struggles. He was eventually persuaded to stand for the position.

Negative attitude
The Mail & Guardian spoke to seven PEC members; five of them said the problem facing the provincial ANC was Fransman and his negative attitude.

But Fransman denied undermining the PEC and accused some provincial leaders of smearing the ANC name. “This is not true. Tell them [the sources] to stop tarnishing the ANC name,” he told the M&G on Thursday.

The PEC members believe that while more than 80% of the committee wants to achieve unity, they are not getting anywhere. A PEC member, who asked not to be identified for fear of being victimised, said the situation had deteriorated since the election.

“He wants to collapse the PEC by painting it as anti-Jacob Zuma in the media,” said the member. “He was also pushing for disciplinary procedures against [PEC members] Magdalene Titus, Lionel Adendorf and others. That’s one of his ways of attacking individuals – to discredit them. But those disciplinary measures are not going ahead.”

City Press reported last month that a letter had been written to the committee accusing Titus of supporting moves to oust Zuma at the national general council. According to the report, the letter, written by ANC treasurer in the West Coast region Danville Smith, alleged that Titus told ANC national executive committee member Nomvula Mokonyane that the newly-elected Western Cape leadership wanted Zuma removed as party president at the October national general council.

Titus did not respond to calls for comment, but was quoted in the City Press report, saying: “The insinuation and lies spread are hurtful, but what did we expect from people who lost the conference and are now motivated by bitterness, hatred and jealousy?”

Adendorf was facing a disciplinary hearing after writing to the ANC Western Cape provincial secretary, Faiez Jacobs, complaining about Fransman’s conduct. In the letter, which the M&G has seen, Adendorf suggested that Fransman’s conduct be discussed at a PEC meeting.

The ANC Western Cape held its congress last week. (David Harrison, M&G)

He was unhappy with Fransman’s media comments on the N1/N2 toll highway project, his alleged unilateral interference in the Cederberg local municipality and comments made during the Cosatu provincial conference.

“While the chairperson should articulate the views of all PEC members and the organisation in its entirety, using public or political forums to sow divisions amongst our ranks cannot be tolerated or supported and should be addressed as and when it happens,” Adendorf wrote.

This week, Adendorf referred all questions to Jacobs.

Decision respected
An ANC regional leader from Cape Town said those who backed Jacobs for the secretary position respected the congress decision to elect Fransman as provincial chairperson.

“The same congress elected us, and if you are unhappy with one decision of the conference, then you have to be unhappy with all the decisions,” said the regional leader. “No one is out to get him. In fact, having him as a leader right now is the best thing for us as we head to [2016 local government] elections.”

Another PEC member claimed Fransman was constantly undermining the PEC structure by insisting the top five regional leaders meet weekly because he had more supporters there than in the provincial executive committee.

“He is threatening the very same unity he was preaching about. While the majority is committed to unity, we are getting resistance,” said the member.

A PEC member aligned to Fransman said the leader was doing his best to unite the provincial executive committee, which is now divided into three factions – the Fransman faction, Jacobs’ backers and a group supporting the former provincial secretary Songezo Mjongile.

‘Three camps’
“It is hard building a bridge over three camps,” said the Fransman supporter.

“Some PEC members are hostile towards him, making him the bad guy. These PEC members need to stop running to the media with every problem but [they must] address it within the organisation.”

He said Fransman was focused on building strategies to win back the Western Cape from the Democratic Alliance and all other PEC members should be doing this instead of getting involved in internal squabbles.

Another PEC member, who said he was not in the Jacobs camp but was concerned about the tensions, urged Fransman to “accept the results of the congress and move on”.

He is a lone runner right now, a bully. But he needs to know he is not going to be allowed to bully this PEC.”

Jacobs admitted there was disunity in the ANC, but said that all leaders, including Fransman, were committed to uniting the party.

“We come from a divided past, but we are all making progress,” Jacobs said. “It’s not going to be easy. It is now a month that this new PEC has been elected, so it’s too early for us to judge ourselves and for members to judge us.”

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