ANC Western Cape chairman Marius Fransman. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Marius Fransman. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

THE African National Congress (ANC) in the Western Cape has downplayed the effect of the sexual assault allegations against its leader, Marius Fransman, saying it is "not worried", and the scandal will not be a distraction to its campaign for the upcoming local government elections.

Reports emerged at the weekend that a woman, believed to be Mr Fransman’s personal assistant, opened a case of sexual harassment against him in the North West, where the ANC was hosting its 104th birthday celebrations. According to reports, the woman has been pressured by the ANC to drop the case.

Mr Fransman has denied the allegations labelling them a "malicious attack on my integrity".

The ANC was scheduled to meet on Monday to hear Mr Fransman’s side of the story, but the meeting was postponed to a later date.

"I want the police to leave no stone unturned in investigating this matter as I am interested in getting to the bottom of the allegations. I will pursue all available avenues to clear my name and protect my integrity," Mr Fransman said.

ANC Western Cape spokesman Yonela Diko said the party believed the issue would not have an effect on its election prospects in the province.

"This issue does not necessarily worry us because the Western Cape is such a unique province in the sense that the political pendulum has been swinging with each election cycle … everything is contested … we are not worried about this issue affecting the image of the ANC," said Mr Diko.

He said, however, the ANC was concerned that the allegations against Mr Fransman could divide the party.

"What we are concerned about is that these things have the potential to divide the party within, and we are calling for members to remain united in the province."

The ANC is desperate to do well in the upcoming local government elections after struggling to challenge the Democratic Alliance (DA) in previous polls. In the 2011 local government elections, of 30 municipalities, the ANC won only Beaufort West outright and lost in some of its former strongholds such as Breede River and Saldanha Bay.

The DA put on an impressive performance, winning 12 local councils, including Cape Town, Berg River, Drakenstein and Stellenbosch.

The allegations against Mr Fransman are proving to be election fodder for the DA in the Western Cape, which has called for his immediate suspension.

Mr Diko said the DA’s calls for Mr Fransman to be suspended showed "political immaturity".

"The mature thing to say right now is we hope the ANC internal processes and the law will take its course. We do not know what happened … it’s none of the (DA’s) business how we handle this issue … they cannot tell us what to do."

DA Western Cape leader Patricia de Lille on Monday said four days after sexual allegations against Mr Fransman emerged, "the ANC has shown unacceptable delay in acting against its loose cannon Western Cape leader".

"When assault allegations against Faiez Jacobs (ANC provincial secretary) came out a few weeks ago, after a male ANC staff member was left with a bloodied face, the ANC suspended him right away. Yet when the victim is a woman, new to the ANC staff ranks, we see dithering and delays in suspending the accused leader, Marius Fransman," said Ms de Lille.

"Nothing other than an unconditional suspension of Fransman from all political activity and political leadership will be enough. Mr Fransman’s checkered record shows that he is not fit to hold office in any political party. The delays by the ANC in acting against Fransman are undermining the fight against sexual and domestic abuse in SA."