DA Chief Whip John Steenhuisen will be subpoenaed to make a statement for an Equality Court inquiry regarding a complaint by a former party staffer alleging racism, xenophobia and sexism against fellow MP Dianne Kohler Barnard. 

Magistrate Daniel Thulare, sitting in Cape Town, also set aside a week in June for an inquiry to establish what Kohler Barnard meant in utterances the staffer complained about.

The case relates to comments she allegedly made during a crime workshop in February 2018, which riled now-former parliamentary operations director for the DA Louw Nel so much that his complaint was escalated to Steenhuisen.

After that he took the matter to the Equality Court in his personal capacity. Kohler Barnard is paying for her defence out of her own money.

Nel told Thulare on Friday that he had two witnesses willing to give evidence – Grant Caswell and Kabelo Mohlohlo – who were among those at the workshop.

He felt that others might be too afraid to give evidence, fearing repercussions.

Thulare ordered that beside Steenhuisen, Caswell, Mohlohlo and fellow MP Zakhele Mbhele, who also attended the workshop, would also be subpoenaed so that he can get to the bottom of the matter.

READ: ‘Xenophobic, racist and sexist’: Case against DA MP Kohler Barnard goes to Equality Court

Mbhele has already submitted an affidavit on the matter, the court heard.

Nel’s founding affidavit alleges that Kohler Barnard’s comments are discriminatory and bigoted.

He paraphrased her as saying:-

“Farm murders have decreased since the removal of then president Robert Mugabe, as Zimbabweans have returned home”;

– “Women have themselves to blame and are ‘stupid for being scammed as they enter into relationships with Nigerian men who sleep with them and solicit money under false pretences; and”;

– “Black children are killing ‘whiteys’ with stones thrown at vehicles from bridges, ‘never mind the fact that coloured or Indian people are also being killed’; also, the respondent (Kohler Barnard) questioned why these ‘kids’ were not in school.”

In his affidavit he submitted: “It is my contention that the utterances listed above amount to unfair discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity, gender and race, and betrayed a bigoted attitude towards Zimbabweans, women and people of colour.”

He also felt that her statements were not based on fact.

Kohler Barnard’s advocate Michael Tsele told the court that: “On any conceivable interpretation of those words, they do not amount to an offence.” 

No evidence was led on Friday, but instead, Thulare will examine the context to the words at an inquiry between June 10 and 14, and decide if they were discriminatory.

In papers filed at the court, Kohler Barnard went through each accusation point by point to provide context.

She submitted that her utterances did not make her guilty of discrimination in terms of the Promotion of Equality and Prevention of Unfair Discrimination Act (Pepuda) and the Constitution.

She said that comments she made at the workshop were based on her doing her job and keeping abreast with crime trends through constant interaction with residents from different suburbs, crime statistics and reading widely. They were not her personal opinion.

Nel had failed to show that people were discriminated against, or that she had incited hatred or advocated war, she submitted in the papers.

She added that it was not against the law to call somebody “stupid” or “naive”.

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