The excellent movie Spotlight exposed the Boston Catholic church’s protection of sexual predators to the world. When Hollywood digs properly into what happens in the political environment, its findings are sure to make that sordid saga seem tame. Such malaise is most prevalent where the abusers hold senior positions within powerful organisations, including in South Africa. With today’s news flow, it’s hard to follow all the big stories. Especially if they drag for over years. But there’s also an advantage to telling the whole story only once it reached the logical conclusion – as Andrew Feinstein did with his excellent book on corruption in SA’s R70bn Arms Procurement Deal which was published almost a decade after the event. Veteran investigative journalist Ed Herbst has done the same for us here in this superb unpacking of ANC bigwig Marius Fransman’s sexual harassment saga. The way Fransman – and others – were protected by both the party and SA’s police force shatters the ANC’s fading myth of sexual equality. It also adds substance to disturbing reports of many similar events which never made it into the news media. Herbst shares in meticulous detail how the attempted cover up of Fransman’s dalliances is more rule than exception. This contribution is lengthy but well worth the investment. – Alec Hogg
By Ed Herbst*
“I thought you were a real Xhosa girl. How can you say no to your chief whip as if I am an ordinary man?” Remark attributed to Mbulelo Goniwe, former ANC chief whip by parliamentary intern Nomawele Njongo 15/12/2006
“Writing on Facebook following the latest allegations involving Fransman, Njongo said: ‘I had death threats. I had bribery moments and I had people, women in particular, who mobilised against me … I went through exclusion from deployment and getting no promotion’.” Nomawele Njongo 15/1/2016
“It is with emphatic appal (sic) that I have learned today from the media some of the content of the apparent findings of the ANC’s Integrity Committee in the matter of an unsubstantiated “sexual harassment” complaint against me, without having received any notification whatsoever from the committee myself.”
That is how Western Cape ANC leader, Marius Fransman reacted on Sunday, 10 July to an article headlined “Fransman to face the axe” which had appeared earlier in the day in City Press.
The essence of what seems to have been a leak to the newspaper is:
City Press has obtained a copy of the commission’s findings in which it recommends that Fransman should immediately relinquish all politically elected positions he holds in the party.
“‘The integrity commission is of the view that the evidence presented by (Wynand) is of a cogent nature and more likely to be true than not,’ wrote committee chairman and ANC veteran Andrew Mlangeni.”
We are thus indebted to Marianne Thamm and Daily Maverick for publishing the SMS messages Marius Fransman sent to Louisa Wynand – then 20 years old – and for her follow-up article about the dilatory response of an ANC-controlled police force in investigating the charges she had laid. Her articles were the key to breaking what seemed to be a cul de sac in police investigation of the case. Wynand has still not heard from the police and is now considering legal action. There can be absolutely no doubt, now, that the failure of the police to investigate this case is politically motivated – something that is hardly without precedent in the ANC’s sordid sexual harassment annals. I have accordingly constructed the following timeline:
Patriarchy and sexual harassment
The link between age-old patriarchy – in terms of which men enforce their dominion over women through superior physical strength, political power, religious edicts and greater access to money – and sexual harassment, is undeniable and constantly manifest.
When one takes an overview of the sex scandals which have hit the headlines – in which ANC politicians routinely feature – one observes several omnipresent factors.
- At first, the blanket denial and initially, in this regard, Fransman effectively denied knowing Wynand, saying that she was the companion of one of the other passengers in the car which was en route to Rustenburg for the ANC’s 104th anniversary celebrations in January when Wynand said he first started forcing himself upon her. It is difficult to see this as anything other than a deliberate lie told to mislead the media and the public
- Then, contrition when the inevitable SMS messages enter the public domain
- A dilatory response by an ANC-controlled police force if a woman claims sexual harassment – this is what links the claims of Lara Swart a career diplomat, who said she suffered “years of hell” as a result of sexual harassment and Louisa Wynand.
- The politician at the centre of the controversy claims to be the victim of a plot by evil agencies well-schooled in the Machiavellian art of the “honey trap”
- A pervasive respect for the sexual excesses of powerful politicians which, it seems, is now being disregarded by the ANC Integrity Committee.
On the available information there is nothing to suggest that Wynand was a “honey trap”.
The archetype honey trap was Cheryl Ben Tov who was married to an officer in Israeli intelligence and who, after intensive training by Mossad, played a singular role in the kidnapping of Mordechai Vanunu who had revealed details of Israel’s secret nuclear program.
Louisa Wynand hardly fits the profile.
We know that Wynand, disappointed because her parents were unable to continue funding her studies at the University of Stellenbosch, sought to build a new career in the hospitality industry and that she did not know who Fransman was when he met her at the wine estate where she was working and offered her employment.
This raises two obvious questions – what did she stand to gain by entrapping a politician and what would have motivated her to do so?
So far, those questions have not been answered – the mens rea element, which could form part of Fransman’s defence, is absent.
ANC's integrity commission has recommended #MariusFransman step down as party leader in province & not be eligible for nomination as rep. NM
— EWN Reporter (@ewnreporter) July 10, 2016
Here are some case studies in a timeline which, I believe, confirm my concerns.
2004 Norman Mashabane
I have typed out a chapter from Rhoda Kadalie’s 2009 book “In your Face” (Tafelberg) because I believe it adds context to an important and topical debate. This chapter was published as an article in the Sunday Independent on 13/6/2004.
Women’s rights the victim in this sordid saga
In an article in the Sunday Independent Smuts Ngonyama, the head of the office of the presidency and communications in the ANC, exposes with chilling clarity the cynicism and hypocrisy that underpin the ANC’s claims to support women’s rights.
Referring to the decision by the foreign affairs minister, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to exonerate Norman Mashabane, our ambassador in Indonesia after his own department had found him guilty of 21 charges of sexual harassment, he wrote: ‘Your newspaper knows that the South African Police Service conducted an investigation into the allegations made against Mashabane. It established that all of these were absolutely without foundation.’
Ngonyama was either wilfully misleading the public or negligently ignorant of the facts because another article, elsewhere in the same edition revealed that the police sent to Jakarta, by Dlamini-Zuma, chose to interview only one of seven locally-employed embassy staff who had complained of sexual harassment.
Significantly she was the only one to retract her claims against Mashabane. Equally significantly the police made not the slightest effort to interview career diplomat Lara Swart. She was transferred to our embassy in South Korea after proving her case of sexual harassment against Mashabane in a departmental disciplinary hearing.
M-Net’s Carte Blanche team members, in a programme broadcast last Sunday revealed that they had also travelled to Jakarta. Unlike Dlamini-Zuma’s plods, they found no difficulty in contacting three of the six Indonesian women who had chosen to leave the embassy’s employ because of Mashabane’s unwelcome attentions. All were happy to testify on-camera about his behaviour.
To nobody’s surprise, I am sure, Carte Blanche ascertained that the only woman who had withdrawn allegations against Mashabane – and the only one whose evidence Dlamini-Zuma regards as credible – now works as Mashabane’s personal secretary. She was only given this promotion after she retracted her claims! She also had a previous disciplinary charge against her withdrawn.
Swart, who clearly has no prospect of promotion, was prepared to testify on camera, unlike Mashabane, who declined a similar invitation from M-Net. With her husband present, Swart told of an embassy function where Mashabane called her aside and suggested she book a trip – just for the two of them – to one of the Indonesian provinces. She spoke about how he then forcibly embraced her and, despite her protestations, fondled her and thrust his tongue into her mouth.
Distraught at his failure to desist, she fainted, gashing her head in the process, but he continued to force himself upon her until her husband arrived to collect her.
It is difficult to come to any conclusion other than that the police who were sent to Jakarta were either instructed to be party to a cover-up or were so negligent that their work can only be described as a travesty of justice and a dereliction of duty.
Nauseating but not surprising is Ngonyama’s concluding statement on this matter in the article he authored: ‘We hope that the necessary disciplinary action and possible criminal prosecutions will be taken against those involved in the dirty campaign against Mashabane.’
Swart would be well advised to alert her lawyers to this sordid saga.
Mashabane was protected by the ANC throughout. Despite all the evidence against him, despite the Carte Blanche program, he was cleared of all charges by Dlamini-Zuma in 2004 and left the diplomatic corps shortly afterwards.
Three years earlier, in 2001, Mashabane had faced 22 sexual harassment charges and was found guilty on all of them in an internal inquiry. He appealed and was allowed by Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma to continue in his post pending the outcome. A further charge was laid against him in June 2003 and he was found guilty for a second time. Once again he appealed and, once again, his appeal was upheld by the Minister who said he was not capable of sexual harassment and that Swart might have lied.
This prompted Swart and the Public Service Association (PSA) to seek relief through the Pretoria High Court.
Swart and all his other victims whose traumatic experiences were disregarded with such cynical contempt by the African National Congress, were vindicated in December 2006 when Transvaal Deputy Judge President Jerry Shongwe reviewed and set aside Dlamini-Zuma’s finding, ruling that she had erred in not dismissing Mashabane. Costs which were estimated at half a million rand were awarded against Dlamini-Zuma who, as is the ANC’s normal practice, debited the tax payer.
After leaving the Department of Foreign Affairs he was rewarded with another sinecure, a post as a “political adviser” to Limpopo Premier Sello Moloto.
Mashabane was killed in a car crash in October 2007.
Here is a SAPA summary of his career as a sexual predator who was given every possible protection by the African national Congress which, allegedly, is concerned about women’s rights:
He lost his post as the South African ambassador to Indonesia when he was found guilty by the Department of Foreign Affairs in 2001 of 21 sexual-harassment charges against Lara Swart, his colleague, who was 21 at the time.
Foreign Affairs Minister Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma reinstated him pending the outcome of an appeal.
In June 2003, another charge was laid against him and he was found guilty. Dlamini-Zuma upheld his appeal.
In December last year, Dlamini-Zuma’s decision was challenged in the Pretoria High Court and overturned.
The court ruled in favour of Swart and ordered Dlamini-Zuma to foot the bill for Swart’s legal costs, which were estimated to be as high as R500 000.
Swart was one of several complainants against Mashabane. They were stationed together in Indonesia where Mashabane was South Africa’s ambassador.
He was found guilty at an initial hearing in 2001 on a battery of charges that included stroking the buttocks of an employee, molesting a staff member in a lift and making suggestive motions with his tongue to another.
In June 2003 another charge was laid against him, and he was again found guilty.
In March 2007, headlines read “Sex Pest Back in Office”, when he was appointed as a member of the Limpopo provincial legislature.
The Commission on Gender Equality described his appointment as a case of “justice delayed is justice denied”. – Sapa
— Anil Salick (@AnilSalick) June 14, 2016
The Lara Swart and Louisa Wynand cases have two things in common, an extraordinary lack of enthusiasm by the SAPS in examining the charges they had laid and a willingness by them – but not of the men they accuse – to go on camera and put their plight in the public domain.
In Swart’s case she was interviewed by Carte Blanche and Wynand spoke to Jennifer Sanasie of News 24.
Since his tawdry SMS exchanges with Wynand were made public, Fransman has refused further comment but his followers routinely attack Wynand on social media in an attempt to protect him and denigrate her.
This is scandalous but in keeping with Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s constant defence and protection of Norman Mashabane. This raises a vital question – will women’s rights be adequately protected and in any way enhanced should she succeed her ex-husband as political leader of the country in 2017?
2006 Mbulelo Goniwe
When the ANC chief whip Mbulelo Goniwe was dismissed in December 2006 for sexual harassment and bringing the party into disrepute the party’s parliamentary caucus leader, Vytjie Mentor, said his dismissal was a landmark decision and a victory for women’s rights. The party-appointed disciplinary committee said its decision was “binding and final”. Its members included the chairman Kader Asmal, an MP and a specialist in human rights, labour and international law, the Minister of Public Service and Administration Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Deputy Minister of Safety and Security Susan Shabangu and ANC MP Luwellyn Landers.
Mentor’s elation was short lived.
Although the committee said its decision was “binding and final”, the ANC’s national executive committee (NEC) overturned the finding. The NEC ordered that Goniwe’s case be heard afresh and that he be reinstated as an ANC member.
His attempts to be reinstated were not successful however but, seven years later, he received a pay out of R1.7 million – your money and mine.
2012 Sicelo Shiceka
“Here lies one of the most corrupt politicians in South Africa.” Mail & Guardian 30/4/2012
While Shiceka was never accused of sexual harassment his life testified to an attitude towards women which is disturbing. The headline on Chris Barron’s Sunday Times obituary on 6 May 2012 could not have been more accurate and more apt: “Philandering and corrupt minister”.
Shiceka had died the previous month, aged 45, after a long illness.
Barron described the former minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs (the last part of his title being somewhat ironic) as a “notorious philanderer and high living abuser of the public purse”.
“There was a reported exodus of female employees from his department while others were afraid to visit his office
“Newspapers wrote about affairs with an MEC for public works with whom he fathered a child and the chief financial officer of a bankrupt municipality which was being investigated for graft even as she travelled overseas with him.
“He had so many wives and girlfriends that even his closest friends could not keep track.”
It is common cause that he fathered more than two dozen children out of wedlock.
You might well claim that, in the context of philandering and abuse of the public purse, Shiceka hardly lacked ANC role models, but that is not what jars.
What jars is that he was given a state funeral, covered live for nearly two and a half hours by the state broadcaster.
What is common to the three above-mentioned cases is that the men involved were all rewarded in some way, Mashabane with a further deployment in the civil service, Goniwe with a pay out of close to R2 million and Shiceka with a state funeral.
It remains to be seen what will happen in Fransman’s case.
Does the behaviour outlined in this article not have historical antecedents?
Widespread complaint that people in administration use their positions to seduce women comrades. This even affected married women and lovers. The boy-friends are harassed and if need be, transferred to other camps.
Recently a trainee tried to commit suicide because his girl-friend had been taken from him. Women lovers of administration are given special treatment and they tend to reject the authority of their immediate commanders. There is a widespread belief that women are sex objects and that they do not develop politically and militarily.
In the past, as it showed in the Goniwe case, the ANC Integrity Commission has operated with integrity, only to be thwarted by Luthuli House.
The laissez-faire attitude of the SAPS to the Wynand case is disturbing. Luthuli House must intervene because the attitude manifested by Matthew Goniwe in the anchor quote to this article – a sort of modern-day Droit du seigneur – still seems to be disturbingly prevalent.
- Ed Herbst is a pensioner and former reporter who writes in his own capacity.