Alleged backpedaling by The Post writer on Kohler-Barnard

28 August 2013

The Office of the ANC Chief Whip has noted the statement by the DA, alleging that the writer of The Post article implicating Dianne Kohler-Barnard in an alleged improper conduct in the parliamentary ethics committee has indicated that her article was "misinterpreted and taken out of context by the ANC". According to the DA, the writer has further claimed she never received any information from Kohler-Barnard on Facebook.

Last week the ANC Chief Whip wrote to Parliament complaining that Kohler-Barnard violated her oath to confidentiality and the ethical code of conduct by disclosing sensitive information to her friends on social media during the course of the hearing on the former minister of communications.

The Post article of 14 August 2013, authored by Nazareem Ebrahim (one of Kohler-Barnard`s Facebook friends), indicates that she regularly posted updates on the proceedings of the hearing. The article says: "Democratic Alliance MP Dianne Kohler-Barnard provided informative enough updates about the matter (of how the former minister "nearly pulled the wool over the ethics committee`s eyes) through Facebook posts".

The alleged backtracking by the writer, for whatever reason, does not impact on the complaint we have lodged with parliament. On Friday the Speaker referred the matter to the Registrar of Members Interest for the attention of the ethics committee.

The DA`s statement today bragging about the alleged retraction, as well as Kohler-Barnard`s threat to take legal action against the ANC Chief Whip, is illustrative of a deep guilty conscience and desperation to get itself and its member out of the messy situation they are in. We are neither intimidated by her legal threat nor bothered by the writer`s alleged backpedaling. The ethics committee also must not be intimidated by these desperate acts and should ensure that it pursues this complaint without fear or favour.

It is an interesting coincidence that the writer decided to retract few days after we announced our complaint against Kohler-Barnard. This raises many questions than answers:

1. Was the decision based purely on journalistic practice of correction of factual inaccuracies?
2. Has the writer or The Post, which carried the article, published a retraction to this effect?
3. Was the writer pressured or intimidated?
4. Is the writer taking the fall for the DA member?

In our view, the alleged retraction is just a side charade which has no bearing on the committee`s responsibility regarding the complaint.

It is not the first time that an allegation of this magnitude is made against Kohler-Barnard. A complaint was submitted to the Speaker`s Office in 2012 alleging that she "acted unethically by releasing and misrepresenting confidential discussions of a closed meeting of the police committee to the media".

All parties in the committee had agreed on a brief closed meeting to reflect on the Private Security Industry Regulations Amendment Bill, but she allegedly released a statement afterwards to the media.

Issued by the Office of the ANC Chief Whip

Moloto Mothapo 082 370 6930