ANC leader in 'votes for cash' scandal

01 February 2015 - 02:00 By Andre Jurgens, Bobby Jordan and Shanaaz Eggington

Marius Fransman, the leader of the ANC in the Western Cape, has been implicated in an embarrassing, and failed, "votes for cash" scandal.

It has emerged that Fransman tried to buy support for the ANC by promising huge amounts of cash to coloured voters to win the DA-controlled province for his party.

But the attempt has backfired as the intended beneficiaries, the Cape minstrel troupes, want Fransman to now make good on his extravagant promises of cash amounts of up to R1-million.

Fransman is the chief patron of the minstrels, a prominent tourist attraction in Cape Town.

The troupes are divided by infighting and allegations of gangsterism and financial mismanagement.

The Sunday Times reported three weeks ago that some were paid more than R40-million last year by the National Lotteries Board.

Among the claims to emerge this week were that Fransman:

- Placed himself in a compromised position by meeting leaders of the Cape District Minstrel Board at a Mexican restaurant where, they claim, he promised to pay R600000 to R1-million if they supported the ANC and performed at President Jacob Zuma's 72nd birthday rally on the Cape Flats ahead of the May 7 elections last year;

- Boasted about giving R27.5-million over three years to the Cape Town Minstrel Carnival Association led by Richard "Pot" Stemmet and Kaapse Klopse Karnival Association under Melvyn Matthews - to buy costumes and hire buses; and

- Pledged legal aid to stop the eviction of 260 mostly white pensioners from a caravan park on the eve of the poll. Many voted for the party, but the support never materialised. They now feel betrayed.

Hand-written minutes of and five witnesses to a meeting held at Cantina Tequila on February 19 last year bear testimony to Fransman's offer to pay for "help with President Jacob Zuma's party and the election".

In exchange, the troupes would register as ANC members.

Ghalieb Essop, former provincial chairman of the National Youth Development Agency, on Friday acknowledged attending the meeting with Fransman, but denied the "votes for cash" allegation.

Fransman also denied it.

A second meeting with the minstrel board and Fransman followed at the restaurant, on May 1, to discuss an election strategy.

This week, an adamant Shahieda Thole, chairwoman of the Cape District Minstrel Board, said her troupes had stood behind the ANC and performed at Zuma's birthday rally as agreed.

Fransman and Deputy Human Settlements Minister Zou Kota-Fredericks were present when Thole stood on stage, urging Cape Flats residents to vote ANC.

Her minstrels donned ANC clothes at events before the elections.

But Fransman's attempts proved fruitless. On the provincial ballot, the DA's support increased from 51.4% in 2009 to 59%.

The ANC increased from 31.6% to 32.89%.

Bishop Lavis, where Thole and her troupes campaigned , registered increased ANC support, from 3.6% in 2009 to 7.8% .

But after the elections, when the minstrels asked for the money they had been promised, Essop told them: "You did F-all for the ANC because the ANC did not win the Western Cape."

Fransman yesterday denied soliciting votes from the minstrels in exchange for cash, claiming that Thole was being used by the DA, the Economic Freedom Fighters and disgruntled ANC members to "slanderously and intentionally ... smear our [leadership's] good name".

DA spokesman Marius Redelinghuys responded to this allegation yesterday by saying: "If he has any evidence that the opposition, including the DA, is involved, he should approach the appropriate body to seek relief."

 

Matthews of the Kaapse Klopse Karnival said on Friday that his association had not received any ANC cash.

Fransman called the allegations malicious, saying they emanated from opposition parties using "gutter political tactics ".

"We categorically deny the false allegation of vote buying," he said.

Stemmet said: "It's all lies. Fransman never promised us anything."

The Sunday Times has, however, established that Thole confronted ANC provincial treasurer Fezile Calane at his offices on January 7 after Fransman failed to pay up.

"I told him we want our money," she said. Thole was instructed to meet two ANC "intelligence" operatives at the Westin Hotel to discuss Fransman's alleged promises. They asked her to put everything in writing.

The Sunday Times is in possession of that report, dated January 9.

It is not only with the minstrels debacle that Fransman has brought embarrassment to the ANC in the Western Cape .

He broke election promises to pensioners in the coastal town of Hermanus.

There, he personally intervened in a land dispute involving the DA-run Overstrand municipality and pensioners threatened with eviction from Paradise Park caravan park.

According to the pensioners, on the eve of the elections Fransman promised them legal protection against the threat of being evicted, but later reneged on his word, causing conflict within the ANC.

"I am disgusted," said ANC member Lana van Dyk.

"He made a lot of promises. He said to us: 'We will stand by you through everything and even go as far as land grabbing.'"

Another resident, Rose Audi-Jonker, 71, said: "We all toyi-toyied together. He stood here like a big deal and we really thought we would see the light. Where is he now?"

Fransman said yesterday: "The ANC intervened, interacted and supported the community, as the ANC works with all communities. No votes were bought."

Internal correspondence seen by the Sunday Times raises concerns about the incident embarrassing the party and damaging its chances of wresting control of the province from the DA.

An e-mail sent to ANC provincial leaders by a lawyer representing the residents said the ANC's empty promises had been an election ploy to garner white votes.

"Such an action is nothing short of betrayal, blatant dishonesty and a total disregard for human plight and human dignity," said the e-mail.

"In short, it is the ultimate desertion of a vulnerable group of people regardless of their 'racial' background or their previously privileged status."

ANC stalwart Cameron Dugmore, a former Western Cape education MEC, said in an e-mail to ANC stakeholders: "It is clear that the ANC, having come to the aid of those facing eviction ... needs to continue providing support and trying to secure a sustainable solution to ... Paradise Park."

jurgensa@sundaytimes.co.za, jordanb@sundaytimes.co.za, eggingtons@sundaytimes.co.za

 

READ: MARIUS FRANSMAN'S FULL RESPONSE

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