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The ANC’s race-baiting tactics in the Western Cape

Earlier this month, Ben Levitas waded into Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Marius Fransman for claiming that Jews were benefiting and Muslims being disadvantaged by the DA’s tender policies in Cape Town. The SA Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) has also since issued a statement condemning those remarks. Far from backing down, however, Fransman, wearing his other hat of ANC Western Cape leader, seems to have lost it completely. Apart from continuing to single out Jewish businessmen when referring to the “white elite” allegedly to be benefiting at the expense of Cape Town Muslims (not to mention all its black and coloured residents as well), he has described the SAJBD as a disloyal fifth column working on behalf of a foreign power (Israel, of course) while supporting the DA in undermining transformation in the city.

As Business Day Cape Editor Andrew Marr asks, “Is there no limit to the depths ANC Western Cape Chairman Marius Fransman will plumb to make a cheap political point?” Fransman, he notes, “left a bad taste in many mouths” when he used his speech at the memorial service for gang-rape victim Anene Booysen to attack the DA.

Following his Jewish-Muslim remarks, in which he transparently sought to pit one religious community against another for vote-catching purposes, he laid the blame for last Thursday’s devastating shack fire at Kayamandi, Stellenbosch, on the Western Cape “government of white privilege”. Concludes Marr, “If such rabble-rousing is what passes for legitimate political campaigning in the ANC, the organisation is in more trouble than I thought”.

We all know democratic politics to be a feral, cut-throat affair. The more democratic the society, the more this seems to be the case. In jostling for the public’s favour, political leaders frequently resort to emotive bluster, ad hominem attacks, gross hyperbole, misdirection and baseless accusations. (In dictatorships, the throat-cutting tends to take place literally, but behind closed doors, after which elections can safely be held and everyone can have the opportunity of telling the regime how much they love it.)

Politics in South Africa has for the greater part of the last century been dominated by race. In the bad old days, political parties made full use of ”Swart Gevaar” rhetoric to scare white voters into their camp. Today, it can hardly be denied that ”Wit Gevaar” tactics are to no small extent resorted to by the ruling party to keep black supporters within the fold. Fransman has of late been particularly blatant in playing this card.

It would seem, whether defensibly or not, that broadly attacking “the whites” is regarded as acceptable in our political culture. Even so, it is understood that somewhere, a line has to be drawn. Among other things, freedom of expression does not constitute a licence to incite hostility against a particular community within the white population, whether defined along religious, linguistic, ethnic or other lines. Hence, having a go at “the Greeks” or “the Portuguese” would not be okay, at least for the time being.

It was this line that Fransman crossed last month when, during an interview with Voice of the Cape, he lambasted the DA for allegedly giving building contracts that historically had been held by Muslims to Jewish businessmen. Since the religious affiliations of those receiving the contracts should have been regarded as entirely irrelevant, why draw attention to them, and why in the context of telling a mainly Muslim audience that Muslims were being unfairly disadvantaged thereby? It would appear to be undeniable that his purpose was to solicit Muslim support by implying that the DA was promoting Jewish economic interests at Muslim expense.

These were among the points made by the SAJBD in its statement condemning Fransman’s remarks. Fransman’s response was to escalate matters. The Jewish Board, he said, was “driving an interest outside of the national interest”; it needed to “act South African”, to be “more patriotic” and to ask itself whether it represented South African Jews or the Israeli government.

In a subsequent press statement, Fransman denounces the SAJBD for its failure to condemn both what he calls “the DA government’s policy of privileged access for established mainly white business in the Western Cape” and “human rights violations perpetuated by Israel against the Palestinians”. Since neither of these issues has anything whatsoever to do with the SAJBD’s complaint, the inference is that the SAJBD is only justified in taking a stand on behalf of Jewish civil rights once it has taken the side of his party against its political opponents and endorsed the ANC’s standpoint on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. In other words, the Jewish community’s constitutional right to protection against anti-Jewish prejudice would appear to be conditional on its leaders first endorsing the ANC’s political and foreign policy agenda.

Another question that arises is why Fransman made a point of so aggressively bringing up the Israel-Palestine issue when it obviously had nothing to do with the matter at hand? In fact, it is becoming increasingly common for those accused of fostering anti-Jewish prejudice to respond with blustering and irrelevant anti-Israel rhetoric. At the core of such responses is a clear element of blackmail. The implication is that Jews in the Diaspora can only expect to be shielded from anti-Semitism if they denounce their co-religionists in Israel.

It would be a mistake to simply dismiss Fransman’s extraordinary diatribes against SA Jewry and its leadership as mere political grandstanding ahead of next year’s national elections. If deliberately inciting anti-Jewish feeling is allowed to become an accepted political ploy, then it is only a matter of time before other minorities likewise find themselves in the firing line. The SAJBD has approached the SA Human Rights Commission to intervene in the matter, and whatever ruling it makes could have profound implications for how democracy functions in this country.


  • David Saks has worked for the South African Jewish Board of Deputies (SAJBD) since April 1997, and is currently its associate director. Over the years, he has written extensively on aspects of South African history, Judaism and the Middle East for local and international newspapers and journals. David has an MA in history from Rhodes University. Prior to joining the SAJBD, he was curator -- history at MuseumAfrica in Johannesburg. He is editor of the journal Jewish Affairs, appears regularly on local radio discussing Jewish and Middle East subjects and is a contributor to various Jewish publications.


  1. Paul Whelan Paul Whelan 19 March 2013

    Very restrained under the circumstances. Get a smart lawyer. Tie the man up in litigation.

  2. bernpm bernpm 19 March 2013

    I have noticed that the frequency of Israel/Jew articles has increased. The responses tell me that not many people seem to be on the side of David nor Ben Levitas.

    The way you seek to create some sympathy for Israel/Jews does not seem to have the effect that -I assume- you try to achieve.
    After the 1960’s, my sympathy for Israel/Jews has gradually turned to neutral and to no sympathy. The recent articles have managed to turn me into an anti Israel/Jews kind of mode. Not worth to participate in active protest.

    I beg you to stop this propaganda.

  3. Kaunas Villager Kaunas Villager 19 March 2013

    “Is there no limit to the depths ANC Western Cape Chairman Marius Fransman will plumb to make a cheap political point?” No, there isn’t. Take the the worst excesses of the Nazis – using crude antiminority propaganda, racism, crass, simplistic, crude nationalism – accusing others of being ‘unpatriotic’ or using hysterical ranting about foreigners. Then take the worst parts of communism – suppression of free speech, the leader cult, exploitation of the suffering of the rabble, worship of an unelected elite living in their dachas whilst the factories crumble and the people pretend tro work. Then you have the political values of many (not all) in the current ANC. SA truly deserves better.

  4. Kovno Kovno 19 March 2013

    “If deliberately inciting anti-Jewish feeling is allowed to become an accepted political ploy, then it is only a matter of time before other minorities likewise find themselves in the firing line.” All minorities in SA – political, intellectual as well as racial – are already in the firing line. In fact, scapegoating of minorities of all kinds is one of the very few actual policies the ANC has left. It is tragedy. It is farce. It is a disaster for SA.

  5. Samuel Samuel 19 March 2013

    ‘The SAJBD has approached the SA Human Rights Commission to intervene in the matter, and whatever ruling it makes could have profound implications for how democracy functions in this country.’ I wouldn’t expect too much. It would make more sense for a neutral global body to be approached, at least as an impartial listener.

  6. Rudolf Vrba Rudolf Vrba 19 March 2013

    The Jewish Board, he said, was “driving an interest outside of the national interest”. Remember – when politicians use words like ‘the national interest’ or the ‘national question’ (Mr Mbeki) , you are coming dangerously close to language that only those with a bit of history will find chilling. Extremely chilling. When politicians use phrases like ‘our people’ – which you hear all the time from certain parties in SA – you are hearing an eerie echo of ‘volksgenosse’. And people need to take it seriously. For as pastor Niemoller said, maybe some day there will be nobody to speak up.

  7. Tofolux Tofolux 20 March 2013

    @David, what is at issue here is the social and economic injustices by the DA particularly in the Western Cape. Also, it is quite opportunistic for the editor of Business Day to misuse his position and act as a spokesperson for a political party. But it is certainly this narrow agenda ofyou and yrs continued use of social forums to promote propaganda. (maybe we should talk abt the obvious congregation of friends in ”high” places) Clearly it is correct to raise these issues of preferential treatment and the huge amounts of monies that are directed to these businesses. Not only it is a clear reward system of tax payers money but the continous benefication. It is quite insulting that you raise no questions abt this. But sure, you and your ilk never raised any voice about any wrongdoing past or present. This silence ensured that you benefitted greatly under the apartheid system and now your silence ensures this continued beneficiary status. It is quite obvious that your critiscm of ANC and it policies is a programme of action of propaganda and I say this because there is NO record of you or any of the above raising any issues abt the toilet debacle, the ”refugee” accusations, the De Doorns unrest, the service delivery protests , the power station debacle, the farmworkers struggle or any mismanagement of the DA especially in the crime or education sectors.This obvious hypocrisy of the above behaviour smacks of narrow politicking.

  8. The Creator The Creator 20 March 2013

    The Western Cape is divided into three political communities; the whites who vote DA, the africans who vote ANC, and the coloureds who waver between both parties. The ANC spent a lot of time trying to win over the coloureds under Mbeki, but this work was trashed by Zuma who threw the province to the DA, for which the party in the province hasn’t forgiven him.
    Marius Fransman’s job is to win the coloureds back. This is difficult, because he is a Zuma man and nobody believes his promises — so he can’t win anyone over with honeyed words. He is alienated from his provincial party, which backed Motlanthe at Mangaung. Therefore, he needs to find issues which will boost the coloured ANC vote, sustain the african vote, and not further disrupt his own party.

  9. The Creator The Creator 20 March 2013

    Launching an attack on the DA for favouring Western Cape Jews at the expense of Muslims makes some sense. Jews will not vote ANC, so there’s nothing lost there. The former DP had a lot of Jewish leaders and backers, so it’s credible that the DA might favour Jewish businesspeople over Muslims. Many of the slumlords who owned District 6 were Jews, so the reparation payments for the forced removals of 1969 went to Jewish families — which seemed unfair to the Muslims who were actually kicked out. Hence, Fransman’s accusations sound as if they deserve serious attention.
    Simultaneously criticising Israel makes a lot of sense, since Israel is widely disliked outside the white community. The insinuation is that the DA is favouring the murderers of Palestinians, something liable to get all the Muslims in town lined up against them. It is irrelevant to any real Cape issue, but it is significant in its framing.
    Fransman’s accusation that the DA has failed to provide proper fire protection to Cape Town’s shacklands also seems credible; certainly the fires in those shacklands have been appallingly frequent and very large-scale. This potentially also challenges Zille’s attempts to blame Cape Town’s crime wave on the ANC. Fransman is saying that blacks and coloureds should band together to defend themselves against these whites in the DA who don’t care about black lives and are probably all closet Zionists.

  10. The Creator The Creator 20 March 2013

    How should the DA respond? Not by saying: “We aren’t prejudiced against Muslims and favouring Jews, and we aren’t leaving black people’s homes to burn down”. Everybody would say “Hmm, no smoke without fire”. The smart move would probably be to let the fuss die down, and persuade coloured businesspeople, very quietly, that the DA isn’t the sworn foe of Muslims, and hint that Fransman is a Zuma clone who can’t be trusted. The DA needs the coloured vote, and it’s taken a knock in the coloured community with its mishandling of the recent strikes.
    Instead, the Jewish Board of Deputies is dancing around shrieking about anti-Semitism. The DA needs friends like this like it needs a hole in the head. Unfortunately, there’s a streak of right-wing stupidity in the DA and its media who think that it’s clever to accuse the ANC of anti-Semitism and racism. This only works with people who already support the DA, and it irritates almost everybody who dislikes Israel — so, basically, Fransman’s gambit has paid off. Without committing the ANC to doing anything which might bring down the wrath of Gordhan or Mantashe on his head, he’s got the DA and its friends to shoot themselves in their feet.
    I don’t think the ANC will win back the Western Cape next year, but it will probably improve its share of the vote — which will make Fransman more secure in his position in charge in the province. That, probably, is the real issue.

  11. Bob Robertson Bob Robertson 20 March 2013

    “…how democracy functions in this country”… is an interesting observation. Our species has not yet devised an ideal and fair form of governance. It believes democracy is the best so far but what is democracy? In the final analysis it forces the disadvantaged 49% of a nation to be told what to do by the 51% majority. This is exactly what we have in South Africa right now. Sadly we are ruled by a party that is dysfunctional in all aspects of governance and brilliantly proficient in all forms of corruption and self enrichment. Because they have steadfastly kept the majority of people in a state of blissful illiteracy, they will continue to take the country deeper into the black hole of poverty and dispair. It will take at least two generations to change course by which time the light at the end of the tunnel behind us will be lost from sight.

  12. Tofolux Tofolux 20 March 2013

    @Creator, there is no winning back of ”coloured” votes. If you understand the history and power politics of race in the Western Cape, then you will recognise that the DA is only in power becos of the coloured vote and this despite their complete and utter mistreatment in the wake of the farmworkers strikes, the toilet debacle, the power-station corruption, the education and crime situation. The power of indoctrination of the apartheid system worked very well with this community and that is plain for all to see.What is at issue here is the corrupt and preferential treatment of a particular community over the needs of the whole community. It is therefore completely shocking and immoral to ask others to be ”silent” and to ”shut-up”. What is totally out of sync is the wall of silence from the so-called ”civil society”, the self-imposed ”opnion-makers” and those who contaminate our social discourse with their anti-black non-sense. It therefore remains the responsibility of our everlasting freedom-fighters to once again raise their voices about unjust behaviour whilst those who benefit do so under the most immoral circumstances.

  13. bernpm bernpm 20 March 2013

    @Tofolux……..Are you the new “Dave Harris”??

  14. Zebra Zebra 20 March 2013

    ‘The Western Cape is divided into three political communities; the whites who vote DA, the africans who vote ANC, and the coloureds who waver between both parties. ‘ This sounds too much like typical ANC thinking – people are just dumb voting cattle – voting with their skin colour, not their brains. I think most people in SA are slightly more intelligent than the crude ANC racial thinkers want them to be.

  15. Zebra Zebra 20 March 2013

    ‘DA is only in power becos of the coloured vote and this despite their complete and utter mistreatment.What is at issue here is the corrupt and preferential treatment of a particular community over the needs of the whole community’. Not true. What is at issue is the majority of people in the Western Cape are not prepared to vote for a gang of criminal thugs due to racial manipulation, and can look beyond both party brands and race. It is a great credit to them.

  16. bernpm bernpm 20 March 2013

    @Tofolux: ” It therefore remains the responsibility of our everlasting freedom-fighters to once again raise their voices about unjust behaviour ……..”

    The freedom your freedom-fighters fought for has been achieved in negotiations; apartheid has been taken off the statute books. Not a bullet spoiled, just a truck from the enemy driving through the front window.The freedom fighters are now taking a well deserved break and some money on the side proud of their heroic behavior.

    Other than that, your response seems a little of topic. We were talking about Israel and Jews in SA context. Please stay with the subject.

  17. Rory Short Rory Short 21 March 2013

    This country has been crippled by the disease of racism for centuries. Apartheid was perhaps the most extreme manifestation of the disease. Unfortunately most people, including the those in the ANC, think that the disease has been cured if you get rid of the Apartheid manifestations. They could not be more wrong. Until we start treating all people, especially legislatively, purely as individuals no matter what their origins the disease is still active.

  18. Tofolux Tofolux 22 March 2013

    Ok bernie, please pay attention, what this author is raising is far from the real issue. What you are being drawn into is the self-styled but very old fashioned propaganda. Ok I expect after all this time, you will not notice the ”blueprint” and we know that you and yours will never address any of these critical issues. Hence, critical issues remain the responsibility of the ANC. However what you constantly defend is the real corruption that is being disguised by this propaganda . In this defense, we see the same-old, same-old message of deflection. This was quite a succesful practise of the previous apartheid regime when they deflected their barbarism under the guise of ”good neighbourliness”. Can you see the familiarity? Now bluntly put, we reject the propaganda and ask again: if the Muslims in Western Cape vote in their droves for the DA why are there no houses, no jobs, no service delivery, no transport to schools ie no societal difference whilst on the other side new bike paths, new fences, new bins, grass-cutting, exercise parks, new amenities, new swimming pools etc and tenders and an undue amount of business given to the jewish communities? Hence instead of apartheid-style propaganda can David, Levitas, Marr please answer this question? (also why are you failing to ask the fundamental question of ”corruption” here?)

  19. Joe Pass Joe Pass 22 March 2013

    I hope you’re reading Fransman ‘cos you need to do some serious study! We need to know: what are the alleged religions of ALL the corrupt state officials from all tiers of government for the last 20 years? Please PUBLISH! Secondly, you need to face the legal music about your hate speeches, but more of that in good time. Honestly, our people don’t need you in your job with Foreign Relations any more, nor any other state job in future, we are worth a damn sight more. You just don’t get it – you have become a political liability to the liberation movement, an insult to the intelligence and values of Cde’s Oliver Tambo & Chris Hani and (lol) a local copy of Mitt Romney opening his mouth to change feet. IN fact, your racism drives voters AWAY FROM from the ANC! We’re waiting on a long apology to the Cape Musilm community for thinking we are THAT stupid to fall for more cheap, hateful, political manipulation. You prove as a ‘leader’ and a party, that you actually offer nothing and seldomly succeed. Why would anyone need that! David, this time I have to agree with you. We must NEVER again put up with Fransman’s racism. He has GOT TO GO!

  20. Just a thought Just a thought 23 March 2013

    @tofulux always making reference to blatant evidence of white/da misuse of power. But he never gives facts to support his broad statements of huff puff. Perhaps you should start writing to tabloids about UFO sitings, because that’s where all the crazy people hang out.

  21. ConCision ConCision 24 March 2013

    A Man like Fransman
    Mr.Fransman – henchman of the ANC
    Manacled to gain political points
    Manipulating the truth
    Manhandling situations
    Manifest by manifold manoeuvres
    Of widening and dividing

    Are you too blind and unkind
    To understand, Mr Fransman
    That it is not
    Mandatory under the mantle of manumission
    For you to sell your soul
    For political expediency.
    And, of course, personal financial gain –
    Which you have done, Mr. Fransman?

    And that the onus of humankind
    And the duty of man
    Is to leave the world better
    Not hell, once you began?

    You are no ‘son’ of this land, Mr. Fransman
    You are a manipulating, malicious, malevolent man


  22. Joe Pass Joe Pass 24 March 2013

    The Minister thinks Fransman’s a wunderkind. So much for the MInister. Tutu’s next. Irrational rant coming on. With Kasrils carrying his cloth. Yet these same fools support Mugabe. Makes sense. SInce they cannot flourish off their own inventions, the state pays them handsomely. Why did I bother with the education and hard work. This lot is junk, I tell you. Annyhoo, chag sameach all.

  23. Tofolux Tofolux 25 March 2013

    @jus a thought – believe it or not . The WCape Education Dept received its 1st qualified audit report. It went as far as to get a disclaimer on their audit. Do you get what this means?
    Also, the POWER STATION tender fraud is a fact. I know that your mouthpiece is failing you and yours on this issue. For an objective analysis, please check your facts even if you will limit and not probe the extent of their mis-management.

  24. Geof Kirby Geof Kirby 17 October 2013

    Excuse me ? How can commentary on religious affiliations be termed “race baiting” ? Last time I looked, both jews and muslims are termed because of their religious beliefs, has absolutely nothing to do with race.

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