New sex and race rows rock the DA

Woman councillor accuses caucus chair of sexual harassment

17 March 2019 - 00:07 By ZINGISA MVUMVU and ANDISIWE MAKINANA

The DA has been rocked by fresh claims of racism and sexual harassment just as the official opposition unveils its list of public representatives.
This follows a woman member left off the party's parliamentary list after accusing a colleague of sexual harassment while, in another case, a senior MP accused of racism and xenophobia faces no action and made it to the list that the party filed with the Independent Electoral Commission this week.
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Today the Sunday Times can reveal that veteran MP Dianne Kohler Barnard faces new accusations of racism and xenophobia. Despite this her name appears high on the party's parliamentary list released yesterday.
This week it also emerged that a DA councillor in Ekurhuleni, Thina Bambeni, was removed from the list on the recommendation of the party's Gauteng leader, John Moodey, after accusing the council caucus chair, Shadow Shabangu, of sexual harassment.
In an e-mail to federal executive chair James Selfe on October 3 titled "Red-flagging of councillor Thina Bambeni as a candidate for parliament and/or the provincial legislature", Moodey recommended that Bambeni's application be rejected.
"Given her past history of accusing members of her caucus of sexual harassment … her actions relating to serving protection orders on her caucus leadership at a council sitting, being escorted by SAPS officers … I therefore petition the FCEC [federal candidates' election committee] to red-flag this applicant," Moodey wrote.
Selfe wrote to Bambeni eight days later, asking her to say why she should not be disqualified. Bambeni told the Sunday Times that attempts to appeal were fruitless.
Selfe said he reported Bambeni to the party's legal commission after she refused to sign an unavailability form when a vacancy was created in the National Assembly. Bambeni's name had been next on the list. Bambeni laid the blame on Selfe. She said the vacancy came when she had already asked to be moved from Ekurhuleni.
Bambeni had laid a complaint against Shabangu in July. A provincial disciplinary committee cleared Shabangu because of a lack of evidence and advised the provincial executive to charge Bambeni instead.
While Bambeni is left out of the list, Kohler Barnard, who stands accused of hate crimes at the Equality Court, has been added.
According to well-placed party sources, Louw Nel, the DA's parliamentary operations director, has taken legal action against Kohler Barnard after party bosses allegedly failed to act against her.
Those familiar with the scandal, which appears to have been kept under wraps for the past 13 months, say Kohler Barnard made the alleged racist remarks at a strategy meeting that was attended by DA shadow minister of police Zak Mbhele.
She allegedly made the remarks while the meeting was discussing rock throwing on the N2 highway in KwaZulu-Natal last year, claiming black youths were targeting white motorists.
Kohler Barnard was accused of racist behaviour and her DA membership was terminated in 2015 over a Facebook posting calling for the return of apartheid president PW Botha. Her expulsion from the party was overturned and the DA retained her as an MP on condition that she was not found guilty of a similar offence.
The DA insiders said that Kohler Barnard also made offensive statements against Zimbabweans in SA, telling the meeting they should return now that Robert Mugabe was no longer president. Nel reported this to the DA chief whip, John Steenhuisen.
Nel and Kohler Barnard declined to comment. Steenhuisen said he received Nel's complaint on March 1 last year. He denied claims that he tried to cover it up because he and Kohler Barnard were regarded as allies. He said he had spoken to Kohler Barnard on the day of the complaint against her to listen to her version, then reprimanded her.
Steenhuisen said Mbhele disputed the allegations against Kohler Barnard. Mbhele confirmed his attendance at the meeting and said he had provided an affidavit.
In his affidavit, Mbhele said Nel had not objected to what was said at the meeting and had "misinterpreted" Kohler Barnard's input.
Solly Malatsi, the DA's national spokesperson, said Nel had been suspended after taking the matter to the Equality Court. Nel was investigated for not following party procedures, then reinstated after the investigation.
Bambeni and Siphesihle Dube, a spokesperson for the MEC of transport in the Western Cape, were the only two names removed from the party list.
Dube was removed for posting pictures he took with former Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille.
Dube and Bambeni are taking the DA to court over their exclusion.
When Bambeni laid a complaint of sexual harassment against the influential Shabangu last July it was not clear if there had been a formal disciplinary hearing.
Bambeni said she was called to appear at DA headquarters in Johannesburg on August 22. Then she was told the hearing would be done on a tele-conference. However, on July 26 she and Shabangu were called in. Her complaint was dismissed.
The chair of the DA disciplinary committee, Mervyn Cirota, said his panel "recommended that Bambeni be charged for damaging the party's name" and making "unsubstantiated" claims against Shabangu.
Cirota did not specify which provision of the DA constitution had been contravened. Moodey petitioned the party's federal executive chair, Selfe, to block her application as candidate for MP.
Bambeni faces another complaint from Selfe that is being investigated by the party's legal commission.
The disciplinary hearing against Bambeni began last month and is due to continue on March 29. According to the charge sheet, she made "uncorroborated, unsubstantiated, reckless and malicious charges" of sexual harassment against Shabangu, and against Phillip de Lange and Neil Campbell for victimisation.
Bambeni was also charged with failure to follow instruction from the DA chief whip in Ekurhuleni after she discussed her claims on the caucus WhatApp group.
Bambeni said that since making the complaint against Shabangu, senior party members, including Moodey and Selfe, had led the charge to victimise her.
She sent several e-mails to other national leaders, including party leader Mmusi Maimane, Glynnis Breytenbach, and Gauteng provincial chairman Mike Moriarty.
In her affidavit, Bambeni said Shabangu had proposed to her on November 19 2016 on the sidelines of a caucus strategy session.
She said Shabangu asked that she drive him and his friends to a petrol station
"It was on this occasion that [Shabangu] told me of his 'feelings' for me. My reply to him was to ask him what about the fact that he is married."..

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