DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard cleared of unfair discrimination accusations

21 October 2019 - 19:31 By Andisiwe Makinana
Dianne Kohler Barnard was let off the hook by the Equality Court on Monday.
Dianne Kohler Barnard was let off the hook by the Equality Court on Monday.
Image: Michael Hammond

DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard has been cleared of accusations of unfair discrimination made earlier this year by the party's former director of parliamentary operations, Louw Nel.

The Equality Court sitting in Bellville, Cape Town, instead ordered Nel to pay the costs of Kohler Barnard's attorney and advocate for the five-day trial.

Kohler Barnard's lawyer, Lezanne Hough, told TimesLIVE that the application was dismissed on Monday and her client was cleared of any form of discrimination or unfair discrimination.

“I am glad Mr Nel’s spurious charges have been exposed for what they were and I look forward to continuing doing my job serving the people of South Africa and building one South Africa for all,” said Kohler Barnard on Monday.

She added that it had been suggested that Nel laid charges against her so long after the lunch-hour meeting because he was trying to use the matter to mitigate against more than 15 charges against him by numerous staff members, an MP and an MPL. Kohler Barnard said the charges were for racism, sexism and other offences.

“The magistrate stated that he had wasted both the court's and my time, and instructed him to pay all costs ... for my attorney and my advocate for the five-day trial period,” she said.

Nel has consistently denied that he was facing charges in the DA. He parted ways with the party by “mutual agreement” a month after he laid the charges against Kohler Barnard.

He confirmed on Monday that magistrate Jerome Koeries dismissed his testimony - and that of his former colleagues who supported his version of events - because they “couldn't recall Kohler Barnard's comments verbatim”.

"He found that despite four people testifying to the contrary, her comments were not her own opinions but rather just her repeating what other people had said," said Nel.

"The important thing about today's verdict is that Koeries found the comment I alleged she made [was] not denied. He found that they didn't meet the requirements for discrimination as per Pepuda [the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act]."

Nel took Kohler Barnard to the Equality Court in February for allegedly making discriminatory utterances during a workshop with staff members in the party's offices in parliament a year earlier.

He told the court that Kohler Barnard told an internal DA workshop on crime trends that farm murders had decreased since the removal of Robert Mugabe from power because Zimbabweans had returned home.

She was also alleged to have said that local women were stupid for entering into relations with Nigerian men who scammed them. Kohler Barnard was also accused of saying black children targeted whites on the N2 highway in KwaZulu-Natal by throwing stones at them.

Nel argued that Kohler Barnard's utterances were xenophobic‚ sexist and racist in nature.

In her court papers, Kohler Barnard did not deny making the three statements. Instead, she accused Nel of omitting relevant contextual information and “misquoting actual utterances”.

"His omissions were aimed at buttressing his endeavour to portray me as a bigoted battering ram, while simultaneously painting himself as a saintly pro-human rights crusader," she said in her affidavit.

Kohler Barnard said she had merely relayed information gathered during a work-related trip and that her comments did not constitute unfair discrimination. She also claimed that Nel misquoted her actual utterances, adding that in some instances his accusations were simply contrived.