Cape Town -
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.
It is the second official complaint of anti-Semitism against Fransman, who has been taken to the SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) by the SA Jewish Board of Deputies.
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 was referring to a comment Fransman made last week at a breakfast meeting of the Cape Town Press Club in Newlands about 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.”
Turok said 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 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.
He explained what he meant 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.
He said he responded in the way he did because he was referring to statements he made in February that led to the complaint by the Board of Deputies to the Human Rights Commission.
The complaint relates to an interview with Fransman in February on 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 at the time said 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 board 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”.
Fransman and the board have since agreed to mediation.
Board of deputies national chairwoman Mary Kluk said they had agreed they would not comment on the talks while the process was ongoing.
Asked for 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.
He said Mantashe still had to decide if the ANC would take disciplinary action.