Dianne Kohler Barnard has been reinstated as a DA party member and parliamentary member. Picture: David Ritchie
Dianne Kohler Barnard has been reinstated as a DA party member and parliamentary member. Picture: David Ritchie

DA divided over Kohler Barnard

By Bongani Hans and Carlo Petersen Time of article published Dec 23, 2015

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Durban - The DA’s activists in KwaZulu-Natal fear that the decision to reinstate Dianne Kohler Barnard taken on Tuesday could cost the party black voters, as she would continue being the constituency head of the party in predominantly black areas in the south of Durban.

The party members, who asked not to be named until their leaders had consulted the party’s federal legal commission, which made the decision on Tuesday, said it was party policy that all MPs and MPLs should mobilise support for the party in their areas.

“Kohler Barnard is the constituency head of South Durban, which is made up of Umlazi, Amanzimtoti and part of Chatsworth, which are predominantly black.

“How do you think black people will look at us if we come to campaign in their areas led by her?” said one leader.

Kohler Barnard’s membership of the party and that of the national Parliament was terminated two months ago after she was found guilty of bringing the party into disrepute.

She had pleaded guilty to sharing a Facebook post by journalist Paul Kirk which suggested that public services in South Africa were better during apartheid.

“Please come back, P W Botha – you were far more honest than any of these (ANC) rogues,” the post read.

Another leader said the about-turn on Kohler Barnard had set a bad precedent, which would make it difficult to deal with “racist tendencies” in the party.

As the deputy provincial chairwoman, Kohler Barnard is a deployee of the KZN leadership to the national Parliament.

She had previously said when explaining her actions that she had not properly read the post before sharing it.

Senior DA members in the province said Kohler Barnard’s reinstatement “contradicts the party’s constitution”.

“The FLC (federal legal commission), which handled the appeal, should have made the recommendation to the federal executive, which had the constitutional right to take the final decision, instead of rushing to the media.

“Moreover, this decision does not explain how she is going to be an MP when she is no longer in the executive,” said a party member.

However, DA MP advocate Glynnis Breytenbach, who is the chairwoman of the federal legal commission, said there was no need for the matter to be referred to the federal executive since its members also sat on the federal legal commission.

“It is untrue that a member of Parliament should be a member of the executive. I am an MP, but not a member of the executive,” she said.

DA provincial leader Zwakele Mncwango said he would also have to seek clarity before commenting on the ruling.

On Tuesday, advocate Barry Roux, on behalf of Kohler Barnard; Alan McLoughlin, on behalf of a five-member panel of the DA’s federal legal commission, and the party’s federal executive all made written submissions during the appeal hearing held in Johannesburg.

The commission ruled that the termination of Kohler Barnard’s membership had been suspended “for the duration of the fifth Parliament”, which is until May 2019.

Breytenbach told The Mercury that Kohler Barnard had been re instated as a party member and a parliamentary member.

The commission said her reinstatement was on condition that:

* She not be found guilty of transgressions such as those she was now convicted of during the period of suspension.

* She pay a fine of R20 000 to an NGO that did work in the field of reconciliation and restitution among persons disadvantaged by the apartheid government before the end of February 2016.

* She resign from all elected positions in the party, except her position in the National Assembly, and that she not stand for (re)election to such position(s) for the duration of the suspension.

* She attend, as a caucus member, a presentation on the safe and responsible use of social media to be presented to the DA caucus.

“This matter has then reached its conclusion and the DA regards the matter finalised. The internal procedures of the party have been fully tested and have demonstrated not only that the procedures work, but also a commitment to transparent and accountable internal governance,” read the statement.

When approached for comment on Tuesday, Kohler Barnard referred The Mercury to Breytenbach.

 

ANC spokesman Zizi Kodwa said the decision meant the DA supported the views expressed in the Facebook post which Kohler Barnard shared.

“This means that the DA was not genuine when it expelled her. We can now take it that the views expressed on the Facebook are official views of the DA,” he said.

 

SABC news reported on Tuesday that the office of the ANC chief whip in Parliament said it would report Kohler Barnard to the ethics committee.

Spokesman Moloto Mothapo said they had expected the result.

“We will make sure that this person, this racist, is made to face the music, that appropriate sanction is taken because what she has done is a violation of the code of Parliament, which is clear that members of Parliament cannot be racist.

“We will be reporting her to the ethics committee,” he said.

The Mercury and Cape Times

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