This week, Marais made a 180º turn when he announced himself the Western Cape premier candidate for the Freedom Front Plus, a fringe party which advocates for “minorities” and once called for an Afrikaner volkstaat (homeland).
Since he arrived in the national consciousness around the mid-1990s, Marais has marketed himself as a crusader for “coloured” people. Over the years this strategy has served the interests of the erstwhile New National Party, then later the DA and the ANC.
When Marais had served his purpose and became an embarrassment to the DA’s liberal elites, he was discarded into the political wilderness where he has been drifting ever since.
Marais got his start in the apartheid-era Tricameral Parliament with the Labour Party, but as soon as the National Party opened its membership to all races after 1990, he and several of his colleagues dumped their party boss Allan Hendrickse.
In 1994, Marais would be elected into the Western Cape legislature, later becoming welfare MEC in Gerald Morkel’s New National Party cabinet. Marais would be fired from his position early in 2000 by Morkel over “certain controversial pronouncements over a lengthy period”, which included his flirtation, at the time, with the ANC. Even the poor man’s Charles Bronson knew Marais was a no good hombre.
While he was being described as a buffoon by some in the press, the DA still saw fit to make him Cape Town mayor, but ensured that his tenure was short.
Tony Leon axed him as Cape Town mayor in 2001, over a street-renaming fiasco. Marais had wanted to rename two of the major arteries in the Cape Town CBD after Nelson Mandela and his hero FW de Klerk, but forensic investigations found the signatures had been forged.
Towards the end of 2001, as the marriage between the DP and the NNP hit the rocks over their fundamental differences, Marais and some top Nats batted their eyelids at a desperate ANC, who had been rejected by voters.
The deal was that Marais would become Western Cape premier through a coalition with the ANC in the provincial legislature, forcing Morkel, who had stayed on with the DA, to become Cape Town mayor. Six months in as Western Cape premier, Marais was forced to resign over allegations of sexual harassment.
Marais’s former provincial cabinet colleague Audrey van Zyl instituted a R1.5 million sexual harassment suit against him, claiming in court papers that he had made unwanted sexual advances towards her. Another former cabinet colleague had also complained, in an affidavit, of unwanted sexual approaches.
In 2003, Marais was cleared, in court, of sexual harassment charges.
He would subsequently leave the NNP. That party suffered a spectacular implosion at the 2004 general elections, and was swallowed up by the ANC.
When the FF Plus hinted that “a former Western Cape premier” would be their candidate for the province, political watchers were left agog. Who could it possibly be?
In 2014, the FF Plus could only get 11587 votes in the Western Cape; to get a seat in the provincial legislature they would require well over 21000 votes.
Whether Marais is the man who will join the dots for them is yet to be seen, but the FF Plus believe he can make a dent in the DA’s Western Cape constituency, who, although they aren’t really happy with the way the party is going, can’t bring themselves to vote for other parties.
* Mtyala is Western Cape politics editor for Independent Media