Fransman and Zuma the epitome of bad taste
IT WAS good to see the troubled Marius Fransman on the campaign trail with President Jacob Zuma on Thursday as it gave us much to dwell on here at the Mahogany Ridge.
For a start, there was the question of Fransman’s current status in the ruling party. He apparently believes he has been allowed to come in from the cold and he’s back as provincial chairman.
This after apparently being told to stand down two weeks ago by the party’s integrity commission following allegations of sexual harassment against him by Louisa Wynand on a road trip to attend the ANC’s 104th anniversary celebrations in Rustenburg in January. Police are reportedly still investigating the matter.
Last we heard of it, Fransman was all bitterbek about his shafting – especially as he’d first learnt of it in a City Press report. He immediately responded with an indignant public statement, the contents of which indicate it would perhaps have been wiser to have paused for thought before putting pen to paper:
“It is with emphatic appal that I have learned today from the media some of the content of the apparent findings of the ANC’s integrity committee in the matter of an unsubstantiated sexual harassment complaint against me‚ without having received any notification whatsoever from the committee myself. (sic)
“Such outrageous breach of ANC protocol and principle clearly brings the ANC into disrepute and seriously tarnishes the image of the ANC.”
Anyway, and much to the surprise of reporters present, here was Fransman in Philippi with Zuma, full of humility and suitably gruntled, guffing on about united fronts, taking the battle to the next level, stabilising the organisation and what have you.
Fransman’s presence there was no mistake, according to Water Affairs and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane. “He is back in the ANC as the chair… the issues have been resolved,” said she who had once vowed to defend her president with her buttocks.
However, according to ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe and national spokesman Zizi Kodwa, the party has not yet made a ruling on the matter. In fact, Mantashe said, Fransman has still to appear before the party’s disciplinary committee. So, is he in or out? Who knows? The more cynical among the Ridge regulars believe it would be especially interesting if Fransman was back on the job. And most pronto. The elections, after all, are around the corner, and there has been much speculation on what further damage this master strategist can inflict upon the ANC. Then – and there is no delicate way of broaching the subject – there were those hideous matching leather jackets worn by Zuma and Fransman.
When the party launched its Jacob Zuma-inspired collection of branded jackets in 2010, the reaction from a scornful fashion world was unanimous: they looked as if they had been put together by a committee. The green and gold elements of the party colours were taken to what the BBC described as “neon extremes, which look as though they would glow in the dark”. One designer said, “I don’t think anybody younger than 40 would wear that, out of fear of being ridiculed.”
It is said the jackets, with their gaudy epaulettes, camp cuffs and naff zippers, are highly prized by collectors of political kitsch. In 2011, for example, the then-mining minister, Susan Shabangu, paid R400 000 for Zuma’s “President No 1” jacket at a fundraising auction. (In truth, though, she’s more a Zumaphant than a collector.)
That particular model, with its green and yellow “racing stripes”, was enough to earn Zuma a place – along with such fashion plates as North Korea’s Kim Jong Il, Chile’s Augusto Pinochet, Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi and Cuba’s Fidel Castro – on Time’s list of the 10 worst-dressed world leaders in recent history.
The magazine reported the “neon no-no” jacket “turned heads – in the opposite direction”. Given the universal displeasure, you’d think the ANC would have allowed the jackets to quietly fade from memory. As it is, the offensive range seems to have been dropped from the ANC’s website.
But no, looking as if they’d just fallen off the bridge of the Starship Enterprise, here was our commanderin-chief and his fawning lieutenant, both in their President No 1s.
An unhappy coincidence? Or a deliberate violation against good taste? You be the judge, etc.