The Democratic Alliance has this morning suspended its combatative police shadow minister Dianne Kohler Barnard for five days after she reportedly used crude but everyday language in Parliament during an opposition walkout.
DA chief whip Ian Davidson says he and party parliamentary leader, Athol Trollip made the decision “in light of her recent conduct in the House”.
The walkout, yesterday, was sparked when former deputy defence minister Mluleki George, now MP for the opposition Congress of the People (COPE) party, refused to withdraw a statement he made on Monday during the State of the Nation debate. Deputy speaker Nomaindia Mfeketo then told him to leave.
This resulted in the entire DA and COPE parliamentary caucus walking out. As they left Correctional Services minister Nosiwiwe Mapisa-Nqakula said she had heard a female MP swear. “She actually said f*** you and I don’t think we should take that lightly. We are not in a zoo here,” the minister said.
Davidson says on the first sitting day of Parliament, after her return to duty, Kohler Barnard will address the House and apologise unconditionally for her words, “something to which she has agreed. A copy of that apology has also been sent to the Speaker.”
Her suspension means her duties as a Member of Parliament are frozen for that period and, as such, that she vacate the Parliamentary precinct and suspend her related activities.
“I wish at this point to say something about the course of action the DA has chosen,” Davidson said in a media statement. “First, we regard Ms Kohler Barnard’s conduct in a serious light, hence the nature of our decision. Second, we wish to distinguish our reaction to her transgression from that of the ruling party, which repeatedly endorses, defends and obfuscates about the unparliamentary conduct of its own members. The DA believes in accountability and consequences, and that this action demonstrates our commitment to those principles. We challenge the ruling party to follow suit.
“And here it is worth setting out some context to incident. Consider that the DA has been accused of being ‘treasonous’, a crime punishable by death in many countries; that labour brokers have been labelled ‘slave traders’ and ‘human traffickers’; that [former DA leader] Tony Leon has been maliciously accused of being ‘a lance corporal in a helicopter above the streets of Soweto, firing tear gas and bullets at the harmless students’ and, in the Western Cape legislature it was even suggested that Leon’s wife was found for him by the ‘Israeli secret service’. None of these statements – libellous, racist, and defamatory – were met with any serious condemnation by the ruling party and certainly no decisive action.
“The ball is now in the ANC’s court. The DA has set a precedent. We have acted immediately and unambiguously. It is now time for the ruling party to adopt a similar attitude to its own repeated transgressions.”
The statement followed hot on the heels of a statement by the governing African National Congress’ “Office of the Chief” [sic] calling on the leadership of the DA to break its silence and publicly denounce its filthy-mouthed Member of Parliament … for bellowing unprintable obscenities in the National Assembly…”
The statement issued by the office of ANC chief whip Mathole Motshekga, said the “party’s continued silence following its MP’s wild conduct, including the use of an F-word … sends a disturbing message to the public that such a conduct is acceptable and that the party sees nothing wrong with it.
“There is absolutely no justification for such vulgarity – regardless of how discontent Kohler-Barnard was with the Deputy Speaker’s decision. Such behaviour tarnishes the image of Parliament and undermines the respect the people have in this important institution. We cannot allow a situation whereby unruly Parliamentarians turns the institution into a shebeen. The DA must come out and publicly condemn its behaviour.
“The Office of the Chief Whip will ask Parliament to consider taking action against the DA’s MP,” the statement said.