Outspoken Democratic Alliance Member of Parliament and Shadow Minister for Police, Dianne Kohler-Barnard, yesterday joined a long list of party public representatives caught with the proverbial racist pants down, once again laying bare the ugly truth of her party still unable to meaningfully transform and shed its image as a party of apartheid.
She distributed a racist Facebook post by Noseweek freelance writer, Paul Kirk, glorifying one of apartheid’s ruthless leaders, former Prime Minister PW Botha, and calling for the return of apartheid rule.
PW Botha was a ruthless apartheid ruler and staunch Nazi proponent who entrenched apartheid and its policies of torture, kidnappings of anti-apartheid activists, murder and sanctioned bloody attacks on neighboring states.
Both Kohler-Barnard and Kirk’s expressed love for apartheid and its rulers are not without foundation. The two plied their trade as apartheid era journalists for the Citizen newspaper and the SABC. Kirk was as a journalist for the Citizen, an apartheid regime-funded mouthpiece and apologist, and Kohler-Barnard was a journalist for the SABC – an important propaganda machine in the apartheid state’s campaign to sell its racist policies and disseminate dangerous disinformation against liberation movements.
Their promotion of apartheid, its indefensible racist policies and its callous leaders is therefore not new, but a continuation of the role they played under apartheid. Similarly, the party that Kholer-Barnard now represents in Parliament, the Democratic Alliance, is itself guilty of complicity in the system of apartheid due to its participation in the apartheid parliament through its previous lives as the Progressive Party, Progressive Reform Party, Progressive Federal Party and, not so long ago, the Democratic Party.
As it battled a nightmare public relations day as news broke regarding the Kohler-Barnard-gate, its prominent member King Buyelekhaya Dalindyebo being found guilty in court and its Grabouw ward being lost to the ANC, the DA tried to save face by immediately announcing it would institute disciplinary process against its racist MP. However, if the DA’s previous handling of racism within its ranks is anything to go by, the announced disciplinary process will in all likelihood be a farce designed to whitewash the Kohler-Barnard-gate. It is for this reason that, far from trembling with fear for her political future upon hearing that her conduct would be subject of a formal disciplinary process, Kohler-Barnard joyfully welcomed the news in the media.
Indications already show that the party’s treasured shadow minister, who is part of what is regarded as the untouchable core constituency of the DA, would at the most just receive a slap on the wrist for the conduct that her party normally dismiss as a minor racial misdemeanor.
When DA deputy chief whip Mike Waters posted a racist picture last year depicting Black ANC voters as dogs, the DA rallied to his defense – saying he was not the originator of the picture. No disciplinary process was instituted and today Waters continues to lead the party’s whippery in the National Assembly. If Waters did not receive even a slap on the wrist for retweeting a racist picture, it would be naive to even imagine that Kohler-Barnard would be fired for endorsing a racist post. When DA member of the Western Cape provincial legislature referred to ANC MPL as “ ‘n bobbejaan”, the party’s reaction was to simply laughed it off and no action was taken against him.
The DA councillor in the Nelson Mandela Bay who referred to a fellow UDM councillor as “councillor bobbejaan” continues to serve the party in the municipality, two months after the incident. Helen Zille called Black South Africans who come to the Western Cape for various economic opportunities ‘refugees’ and nothing happened to her. Alistair Sparks, veteran journalist and Zille’s friend, sparked racial controversy at the DA’s conference by lauding apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoed to a roarous applause from both white and black delegates. Instead of condemnation from DA senior leaders, the nation was instead lectured about how non-racist Sparks is and how he would never hurt a fly.
There is no evidence of any action having been taken by the DA in all these incidences as a recourse for the victims of racism or to prove its commitment to non-racialism and racial inclusivity. Instead, those who complain of racism are further victimised and threatened with disciplinary actions. For instance, DA councillor in the Nelson Mandela Bay, Knight Mali, is facing suspension by his provincial leaders after he publicly complained about racism within the party. Last week DA councillor in the City of Tshwane, Winston Campbell, resigned from the party after he endured racial abuse from white party members – which included being referred to as a ‘hottentot’ and ‘bruin man’.
DA leader Mmusi Maimane has already come out in Kohler-Barnard’s defense, vouching for her on the television interview that he has known Kohler-Barnard for many years and he does not think that she is racist as people wants to portray her. In his announcement of a disciplinary process on twitter, Maimane went to great length to emphasise how sorry Kohler-Barnard is. Of course for Maimane to have made it to the apex of a historically white party he ought to have demonstrated commendable capability to see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil.
Any public support for Holocaust is regarded as a criminal offense and an affront against its victims and humanity, and offenders were jailed as a recourse for the obscene suffering caused to the victims. Those who publicly advocate for apartheid, a system declared a crime against humanity and which dehumanised and caused untold sufferings to millions of Black people, must be isolated from modern society and face same fate as those who support holocaust.
Judging by the large amount of evidence pointing to the DA’s past indifference to racism within its ranks, Kohler-Barnard can afford to celebrate the announced disciplinary hearing as a strategic escape from the ugly scandal engulfing her. She will not be fired. All that the DA disciplinary hearing would emerge with after weeks of ‘investigation’ is likely to be a public apology and a bid of community work (which is what public representatives ought to do anyway as part of their constituency work).
Kohler-Barnard’s shameless nostalgia for apartheid and its murderous rulers, and the DA’s expected whitewash of this latest racism scandal, will further fuel observations that it is a party of apartheid yearning for the return of minority rule. It would further confirm the damning findings made by two years ago by Pondering Panda, which concluded that 54 percent of black youth believe the DA will revert to apartheid if it ever won general elections.
DA can choose to seize this moment and prove us wrong by booting the racist MP out of our democratic Parliament. DM
Mothapo is senior manager for media and communication at the ANC parliamentary caucus.
Moloto Mothapo is senior manager for media and communication at the ANC parliamentary caucus. Previously he worked as information officer, and also acted as spokesperson, for the Congress of SA Trade Unions. He holds a degree in journalism. This letter contains strictly his personal views.