Anti-Semitism causes clash of ANC big-wigs

ANC veteran MP Ben Turok this week lodged a complaint with his party against W/Cape chair for making anti-Semitic comments about the Jewish community last week.
by ANT KATZ | Oct 15, 2013

ANC veteran MP Ben Turok has lodged a complaint with his party against its Western Cape chairman, Marius Fransman, for “anti-Semitic” comments he made about the Jewish community in Cape Town last week.

 The story was the front page lead in the Cape Times this morning.

It is the second official complaint of anti-Semitism against Fransman since February when he was taken to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies. After the February complaint Fransman accused the Board of “nose-picking” and “abusing” the SAHRC with a “frivolous” complaint against him.

Fransman is also deputy minister for international relations and co-operation.

Turok, who heads the ethics committee in Parliament, said on Monday that he had sent a letter to ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe and Fransman to request that disciplinary action be taken against him.

“This is such a serious matter,” he said. “Ethnicity is backward in a country that tries to unite people.”

Turok has been an MP since 1994 and is a former anti-Apartheid activist and Treason Trialist who helped draw up the Freedom Charter. He served time in prison during the struggle before going into exile. He is one of several Jewish communists (or communist Jews) who bolstered the high proportion of the white vanguard during the struggle.

He was born and bred Jewish and even sang in the Shul choir (albeit, he says, for the money), in later life he did not think of himself as Jewish - or a religious believer of any type.

The nub of Turok’s complaint

 Turok’s complaint was about a comment Fransman made last week at a breakfast meeting of the Cape Town Press Club in Newlands regarding land ownership in the city. Sapa reported Fransman had said: “The reality is… 98 percent… of the landowners and property owners actually is the white community and, in particular, also people in the Jewish community.”

Fransman said that he was referring to statements he made in February that led to the complaint by the Board to the Human Rights Commission. That complaint, which is still unresolved, relates to an interview with Fransman in February on Muslim radio station Voice of the Cape, in which he said that building contracts in Observatory and Woodstock had been taken from Muslim businesses by the DA and awarded to Jewish businessmen.

The Board said in its February complaint that to attract votes, Fransman had made “demeaning and inflammatory remarks” that would create animosity between Muslims and Jews.

Fransman failed to attend the first SAHRC meeting in June, called in an effort to mediate in a complaint that he had insulted Jews. He accused the SAJBD of “nose-picking” and “abusing” the SAHRC with a “frivolous” complaint against him.

In his statement at the time, Fransman demanded a public apology from the Board “for misleading the people.”

But Fransman and the board have since agreed to meet with SAHRC and, as it turns out, the first such meeting was held later on the same day that Fransman repeated his remarks last week.

Where the Board stands on this

The SAJBD’s national director Wendy Kahn told Jewish Report today that there is an SAHRC process under way between the parties and confirmed that the Board and minister Fransman did meet at the SAHRC last Thursday.

However, said Kahn, one of the terms of reference specifically excludes the parties from talking about the matter in any way while discussions were ongoing. Kahn said that she undertook to keep the community updated as and when she can.

Turok said in his complaint that it was unacceptable to identify people or ownership along ethnic lines for no reason.

He said during the liberation struggle the ANC had never identified people by their ethnicity. “We addressed issues along racial lines because of our history and the economy was divided along it, but never by ethnicity,” he said.

Turok called Fransman’s statement damaging and divisive. “The whole ethos of the ANC has been around unity,” he said.

Asked by the Cape Times for his response, Fransman said he would never take on an ANC elder in public because he had too much respect for Turok. He said he would write to him.

“I unreservedly apologise for the perception what was created that I was singling out the Jewish community,” he said. Fransman felt his comments were not anti-Semitic. What he had meant to say, says Fransman, was that 95 to 98 percent of all properties the Western Cape Government and the City of Cape Town were renting in Cape Town were in the hands of private property owners.

Not the first in his post to fall

 In 2009, the then deputy minister of foreign affairs Fatima Hajaig was taken before the SAHRC for saying that “Jewish money” controls the United States. She had told a political rally in Johannesburg that Jews “control America, no matter which government comes into power, whether Republican or Democratic, whether Barack Obama or George Bush.” She was later relieved of her position.

“Their control of America, just like the control of most western countries, is in the hands of Jewish money,” she said. Outraged by the remarks, the Board filed a complaint against Hajaig at the HRC.

The Board’s chair, Mary Kluk, confirmed to the Cape Times that they had agreed they would not comment on the talks while the process was ongoing.

Asked to comment on Fransman’s apology on Monday, Turok replied he was happy his complaint had the effect he intended and hoped Fransman would refrain from making comments like this in the future.

Turok said Mantashe still had to decide if the ANC would take disciplinary action.


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