Marius Fransman

John Harvey

WESTERN Cape ANC leader Marius Fransman barely escaped being beaten by an angry crowd in Oudtshoorn late on Tuesday following a meeting with regional party leaders on instability in the town.

Thanks only to the quick thinking of his security detail, Fransman escaped injury. The crowd was eventually dispersed with police stun grenades .

At least four arrests were made, including that of Die Son journalist Hein Coetzee, who said police assaulted him and protesters.

Fransman was visiting Oudtshoorn to address concerns about appointments in the local council when about 50 residents from the Bongolethu community descended on the municipal buildings about 9pm.

According to witnesses, they chanted, “Go away Fransman, we don’t want you in Oudtshoorn”. Earlier Fransman had instructed that Pieter Luiters, touted to replace Oudtshoorn mayor Gordon April, return to the Eden District Municipality and that Carmichael Ngalo be reinstated to the Oudtshoorn council as ANC chief whip.

He also ordered that Charlie Wagenaar replace April as mayor. This move was to correct an announcement by ANC NEC member Jessie Duarte last week that Luiters would replace April.

It is believed that the protesters were against Fransman’s decision.

Fransman said yesterday: “We had a very successful meeting at 1pm. I was mandated to introduce corrective measures to bring stability to the town. At 8pm we (were) at the municipal building to meet the regional leadership and discuss the structures needed.

“At about 9pm a mob, let me call them thugs, of about 50 people had gathered outside. They were breaking the windows and glass to try to get inside, and the building was in lockdown for about an hour.

“When I went out one guy and three others launched (themselves) at me, but my security were able to prevent them from hitting me.”

Bodyguards then rushed Fransman into his black 5-Series BMW and he was

escorted out of town by police.

“I don’t believe these people were ANC supporters, but we will be conducting an investigation,” he said.

Photographer Coetzee claimed soon after Fransman’s motorcade had fled the scene, police began assaulting people.

“I was taking pictures of a police officer assaulting a guy when a policeman spotted me and sprayed me in the face with pepper spray. I went back to the municipal building where I saw the officer who had sprayed me,” he said.

“I asked him three times why he had sprayed me. Then he got out of the car and said that I had called him a p***s. He shoved me hard against the car, took one of my cameras and removed the memory card. I was arrested and charged with crimen injuria. I was released at 10.30am this morning. I have now laid complaints of assault and theft against the police.”

Police spokesman Brigadier Phuti Setati confirmed that four people, including Coetzee, had been arrested. “More people could be arrested as investigations continue. Police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd when they were called to the scene. A police vehicle was also damaged after it was pelted with stones,” he said.

Setati said while he was not aware of the complaints Coetzee said he had lodged, he was within his rights to do so.

Municipal spokesman Ntobeko Mangqwengqwe said they would be assessing the damage to the building.