Cape Town - Marius Fransman was just three years old when his family moved to Blackheath. – 41 years later he still lives little more than a stone’s throw from the family home in which he grew up.
As one walks into his Kuils River home today, a crucifix hangs in the entrance hall – he was born Catholic, and grew up attending the St Catherine’s Church in Eerste River.
He admits, though, that his mother may not be sure that he remains a practising Catholic – he’s not a regular congregant. But the Western Cape ANC leader has a plausible excuse, perhaps – as deputy minister of international relations and co-operation, he is constantly away from home.
That, however, is about to change.
Fransman’s political career began after he graduated from the University of the Western Cape with a BA in 1990, followed by a teaching diploma in 1991.
“In 1992 I was deployed by the ANC to work as a teacher in Vredendal. The West Coast was extremely conservative, the ANC was still seen as ‘a bunch of terrorists’, and after two years of teaching I slowly started explaining that I was an ANC member too. My job was to introduce the ANC ‘softly’.”
In 1996 he joined the ANC’s provincial executive committee, serving for nine and a half years as deputy secretary under James Ngculu, then Dullah Omar, then Mcebisi Skwatsha, and joining the provincial legislature as an MPL in 1999.
He went on to serve as MEC in four portfolios: social services and poverty alleviation, local government and housing, transport and public works and, finally, health.
He says the ANC leadership he was part of was a “dream team”.
“We were mature, strategic, highly visionary, dedicated and idealistic,” he says.
How then did they manage to lose power to the DA?
“I think the team was too strong for itself. There were personal and political battles… We were inward-looking and it was a slippery slope.”
In May 2009 he was appointed to the national Parliament and to the cabinet in 2010.
Fransman says he “loves” working in the international arena, especially on the continent – even at the cost of time away from his family.
This comprises his wife, Philida, and their two children, Miche, 11, and Merlin, 9, who attend nearby Holy Cross Primary School.
He says since the ANC’s fall from power, the party in the province has never really found its feet. And since becoming provincial ANC leader in 2011, his dual national-provincial role has diluted his impact.
And so Fransman has chosen to “sacrifice” his ministerial position and return full-time to the Western Cape.
“If I look at the skewed development in the Western Cape, we will have increasing social unrest,” he says, explaining this is what had driven him to answer his party’s call.
His party’s priorities are “to re-establish the (ANC) brand”, “to reconnect with communities”, and “to manage different factions in the party, and keep spats out of the public sphere”.
That achieved, Fransman believes the DA is vulnerable. “After (Premier Helen) Zille, there is no DA. Once she goes the DA will fracture into two, or three or four.”
And what of the charge that the ANC’s main tactic will be to disrupt the ruling DA in any way it can?
“No, that’s not our policy. Our job is just to tell the truth.”