Is Marius Fransman a flight risk?

by The Editor

ANCFlagFEATURE: Marius Fransman, ANC leader in the Western Cape, has recently been making much noise, largely on the back of a volunteer drive designed to take back the province from the Democratic Alliance in 2014. But a 2009 Wikileaks cable suggests Fransman is not necessarily the right man to be leading the charge, as he was apparently all but ready to abandon the party for COPE, ahead of the last election. So, one question worth putting to the man is: are you really committed to the ANC?

Is Marius Fransman a flight risk?

By: Gareth van Onselen

11 April 2013

Here is a short but simple story that raises a number of important questions. It concerns the ANC leader in the Western Cape, Marius Fransman, and his commitment to the party.

Fransman has recently been in the news, advocating for an army of ANC volunteers to help the divided and largely ineffective party in the province take back control of the legislature in 2014. It’s part of the ANC’s turnaround strategy to take back the Western Cape, an attempt to address years of infighting, a lack of direction and a generally lackluster performance.

In doing so, he was quoted as saying: “We want to kill the DA, not violently, but [by] mobilising people”.

Them’s fighting words! But there is a certain hypocrisy to Fransman leading the charge. According the Wikileaks cable below (the original can be found here) Fransman was all but set to abandon the party for COPE ahead of the last election, and only agreed to stay with the ANC after Chris Nissen, former ANC provincial leader, intervened and convinced him to stay. The cable suggests some other prominent Western Cape ANC types – former Premier Ebrahim Rasool for example – were likewise on the verge of leaving.

So, is he really the right man to be leading the ANC into “war”?

The cable, from the US consulate in Cape Town to Washington, was based on a meeting with Nissen, who set out how and why the ANC lost the Western Cape in 2009. Aside from the Fransman information, it is worth reading regardless, as an insight into the volatile condition the party is in; at least, of how ineffectual their strategy was.

The consulate had no reason to misrepresent Nissen, the cables were designed to send the best possible information to Washington (there would be no point to the US deluding itself) and, at the time, it was not known they would ever appear publicly.

So the question one is inevitably forced to ask is: how committed exactly is Marius Fransman to the ANC? Clearly, when times are tough, he is ready to abandon ship. Is this the right person to be leading the party when his own commitment to it appears so fragile?

Likewise, in an age of perks and privilege, one must ask whether anything was offered to Fransman for him to stay. Sure enough, soon after the election, he was elected leader. If support for him in that position was offered as an incentive, then it is all the more damning, for he would have accepted on the basis of power, not principle.

The cable has been put to Fransman before, in September 2011 by the Weekend Argus, but his response then was merely to say the ANC did not comment on internal matters and to suggest it was “information peddling” (the confidential nature of the cable, however, absolutely disproves any suggestion that it was). Perhaps more tellingly, Chris Nissen could not be reached for comment.

It might be well worth putting these questions to Fransman again. One would think all those delegates who voted for him deserved to know he stands on shaky ideological ground. Was his support for COPE disclosed to the ANC members in the province before they voted? Or were they kept in the dark? Surely this important piece of information is something they should have been made aware of, before they made their decision?

Certainly those volunteers who put their faith in the man should know.

Here follows the cable:




E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/14/2019

(C) Summary. On May 14, Poloff met with Chris Nissen,
who spearheaded the ANC,s political campaign in the Western
Cape. Nissen discussed the ANC,s failure to win the Western
Cape in the recent April 22 elections as well as the ANC,s
plans for the future in both the City of Cape Town and the
Province. Although the ANC,s Western Cape office is
theoretically spearheaded by Mcebisi Skwatsha, the National
Executive Committee (NEC) is not happy with Skwatsha and
therefore asked Nissen to step in and run the election
campaign. Nissen, who is the Executive Chairman of
Boschendal Winery, holds no official role in the ANC, but has
been a party stalwart for many years. Boschendal gave him
four months of paid leave to run the ANC,s campaign. Nissen
said the ANC has never been hit so hard by factionism and
that the ANC has gone down because of it. He also said the
ANC lost most of its people to COPE in the Western Cape. End

(C) Nissen said that most of the ANC members in the
Western Cape who defected to COPE had legitimate reasons for
leaving the ANC, namely their dislike of Skwatsha and the
damage he has done to the party in the Western Cape. All
branch executive committee leaders in the Western Cape left
for COPE, &which left the ANC totally dysfunctional in the
Province.8 Richard Dunkie, Terror Lekota, Marius Fransmann
and Ibrahim Rasool were all about to jump ship to COPE, until
Nissen intervened. In January, Nissen approached each of
these men and asked them not to leave the ANC. Nissen had
the full support of the ANC,s NEC including Gwede Mantashe,
the ANC Secretary General, but did not have the support of
the ANC in the Western Cape. When he took over the election
campaign in January, the polls showed 18 percent support for
the ANC in the Western Cape. However, Nissen worked hard to
bring back people to the ANC and he was able to increase the
percentage of the vote to 32 percent on election day.

(C) Nissen said the ANC,s biggest mistake was &it
didn,t keep its eye on the ball with regards to the
Democratic Alliance (DA).8 One predominantly colored area
in the Western Cape, Mitchell,s Plain, didn,t have a single
functioning branch so how could the ANC be expected to win,
said Nissen. Nissen continued by saying there were 50,000
voters in the Western Cape who voted for the ANC nationally,
but not in the Province. He continued by saying there were
20,000 spoiled ballots in the Western Cape and if the ANC had
gotten those 70,000 votes the ANC would have deprived the DA
of winning more than 50 percent of the vote and wining the

( C) Nissen asked the NEC to remove Skwatsha from office
and asked that the Provincial Executive Committee in the
Western Cape also be dissolved. He believes the NEC will
follow his recommendation. If so, there will be an interim
committee, which will work towards building more branches
since there are currently very few branches in the Western
Cape. Nissen continues to work to try and bring people back
to the ANC from COPE and said the ANC will welcome them back.

(C ) When asked about the relationship between the DA
which leads the Western Cape government and the ANC that
leads the National government, Nissen said it will be a
&competitive/love-hate relationship.8 He does not think
there will be violence, but said people could rise up in the
townships if they don,t get service delivery and the DA
Qtownships if they don,t get service delivery and the DA
would likely blame it on the ANC saying they are not
receiving enough money from the National government. Nissen
added that &Premier Helen Zille was completely out of line
regarding her recent comments about Zuma being a womanizer,
but also said Malema (the head of the ANC Youth League) is a
loose cannon, although Malema has done good things (for the
ANC) in the poor communities.8

(C ) After the elections Nissen drafted a comprehensive
report to the NEC entitled &Building a platform for the 2011
local government elections.8 In his report, he explains
that the colored communities do lack hope for the future and
he argues that the DA instills fear in these communities
against the ANC. (Note: In a similar vein, the ANC campaign
in the Wetern Cape accused Zille of wanting to return South
Africa to white minority rule. End Note) He reasons the
colored people don,t feel black enough to receive the
benefits of what the ANC has to offer, such as receiving a
job, and the ANC failed in its duty to instill hope in these
communities. Nissen said he would volunteer to work on the
2011 elections. He also said he knows he can have a prominent
position within government if he wants it, but it would be a
hard decision to make since he would have to give up his job
with Boschendal.

CAPE TOWN 00000111 002 OF 002


  • Gareth van Onselen (@GvanOnselen) is the Editor of Inside Politics (@insidepols), Winner: Best Political Blog 2012.

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