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No need for Steenhuisen to give oral testimony in Kohle...

South Africa

EQUALITY COURT

No need for Steenhuisen to give oral testimony in Kohler Barnard’s discrimination case – magistrate

Democratic Allliance MP Dianne Kohler Barnard is facing an unfair discrimination case in the Equality Court. (Photo: Gallo Images / Netwerk24 / Deaan Vivier)

On Tuesday, 23 July 2019, complainant Louw Nel asked the Equality Court for the DA Chief Whip, John Steenhuisen and Kabelo Mhlohlo, a former DA employee, to testify in a matter that accuses DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard of unfair discrimination. Magistrate Jerome Koeries denied this application.

Louw Nel, the former DA parliamentary operations director, was back in court in Cape Town arguing that it was important for John Steenhuisen and Kabelo Mhlohlo to testify in the Equality Court case against MP Dianne Kohler Barnard after she made what Nel describes as “racist, sexist and xenophobic” comments at a workshop in 2018.

Nel, who is representing himself, told the court that Mhlohlo’s account “will provide greater context” as he was also present at the workshop and later laid a complaint with his line manager.

Mhlohlo, who is based in the Free State, sent an affidavit letting the court know that he had no interest in going to Cape Town to testify.

The court had already heard testimonies from DA party members and MPs – including Zakhele Mbele, Grant Caswell, Mondli Zondo and Kohler Barnard herself. Advocate Michael Tsele, who is representing Kohler Barnard, argued that there was no need to have additional witnesses.

What peculiar knowledge does Mhlohlo have? What does he know that the other (witnesses) don’t?” asked Tsele.

Steenhuisen was represented by Advocate Piet Olivier who argued that Steenhuisen – who wasn’t present at the workshop – had “very little to contribute”. Nel laid his complaint with Steenhuisen, who discussed the issue with Kohler Barnard, who, according to an email sent by the DA’s Federal Executive Chairperson, James Selfe, “expressed immediate contrition and promised not to repeat it”.

Olivier also argued that all Nel wants to do by having Steenhuisen in the witness box is to “pick holes into his testimony. Steenhuisen would be testifying from his memory about what happened a year ago which is not very reliable”. Olivier also told the court that Nel wants to “embarrass Steenhuisen and to embarrass the DA”.

I forwarded this (complaint) to the Chief Whip (John Steenhuisen) so it that it could be dealt with in-house. If I wanted to embarrass them I could’ve just tweeted this,” Nel told Daily Maverick outside the courtroom.

After a short adjournment, Koeries said that he agreed with Olivier that Steenhuisen’s testimony held no relevance as his affidavit had already been submitted as evidence. Koeries said that Steenhuisen’s testimony “would not take the matter further”. Koeries said that once both parties had forwarded each other their heads of argument he would let them know of the next court date.

Kohler Barnard landed up in the Equality Court after her comments in a 2018 DA workshop in Limpopo. She said that crime had reduced in the area because Zimbabweans had gone back to Zimbabwe, that black children were killing white people by throwing stones off bridges, and that women who slept with Nigerian men had themselves to blame when these men scammed them.

In her answering affidavit, Kohler Barnard argued that “her comments were taken out of context and grotesquely misunderstood” and that she had based her comments on crime statistics and research “gathered [in] on-site inspections and consultations with community members”.

In 2015 Kohler Barnard faced internal disciplinary charges for bringing the party into disrepute after she shared journalist Paul Kirk’s Facebook post which read, “please come back PW Botha – you were far more honest than any of these [African National Congress] rogues, and you provided a far better service to the public”.

She was found guilty by the party and expelled. She later appealed this, was fined R200,000 and had to attend a presentation on the safe use of social media. DM

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