There was little sympathy among the South Africans who took to social media on Friday after DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard shared a Facebook comment praising apartheid president PW Botha.
“Dianne Kohler Barnard should be fired. Posting that PW Botha thing means she’s very racist, very stupid, or both. Whichever, she needs to go,” tweeted author Tom Eaton.
There were also a number of users who criticised the post as a reflection of the racism that continues to plague the country.
Describing South Africa as “sitting on a ticking time bomb”, Mvuzo Mbelekane said: “There are so many #KohlerBarnard in our workplaces and communities.”
The Democratic Alliance has announced it will take disciplinary action against Kohler Barnard for the Facebook reposting, which happened about two weeks ago, of a comment by journalist Paul Kirk, in which he declared “Please come back PW Botha – you were far more honest than any of these ANC rogues, and you provided a far better service to the public…”, among other things.
Kohler Barnard has since apologised for her actions saying that she had not seen the sentiments made about PW Botha.
I apologise unreservedly for sharing a post on FB in the midst of which the author praised PW Botha.I erased it immediately I realised.
— Dianne KohlerBarnard (@DKB20) October 1, 2015
Other Twitter users chirped in about what impact the MP’s actions might have on the reputation of the opposition party. “Dianne Kohler-Barnard’s Facebook post are the type of discussions the real DA nucleus are having amongst each other in private,” tweeted Thiago Ivimihle.
Describing the incident as creating “awkward times for the DA”, Thulisa Kanzi suggested Kohler Barnard was “like a DJ that decided to play Steve Hofmeyer’s music at a street bash eKasi”.
Megan Furniss expressed sympathy for what the fallout would be for the party, labelling Kohler Barnard’s actions as “eternally damaging. Sies…#PoorDA shem.”
In May, scandal broke out when veteran journalist Allister Sparks mentioned apartheid architect Hendrik Verwoerd among a list of “smart politicians” while he was addressing the DA’s elective conference in Port Elizabeth.
He also only named white politicians in this list that he mentioned as part of a speech in tribute to the outgoing DA leader Helen Zille.
Sparks later apologised for both remarks, but added that while Verwoerd’s policies appalled him, “he was clever, which is what I meant when I called him ‘smart’ – but I guess that wasn’t the smartest choice of word, because some felt it carried a connotation of praise”, he said in a column published on News24.
Dianne Kohler Barnard should be fired. Posting that PW Botha thing means she’s very racist, very stupid, or both. Whichever, she needs to go
— Tom Eaton (@TomEatonSA) October 1, 2015
CALLS FOR RESIGNATION
On Friday, many users did not mince their words in calling for Kohler Barnard’s resignation in the wake of the latest scandal to hit the party. “#KohlerBarnard shouldn’t be deleting tweets and posts, she should erase racism from her heart and delete herself from public office,” said Akani M.
Twitter user Nkosi Maphumulo echoed these sentiments, imploring that Kohler Barnard “must resign from parliament. We reject her apology.”
However, there were some on the twitterverse that defended Kohler Barnard: Going by the twitter handle, @damdiver7, Jay tweeted: “Nothing offensive in the post; just an opinion. Freedom of speech at work.”
Oink South Africa added a comment stating that, “Sometimes people do things which are stupid enough to be accepted as a mistake. I believe #DianneKohlerBarnard is sincere.”
Memes about the incident also began to spring up, with one showing a group of black protestors running away in terror and another photoshopping Kohler Barnard’s face on a photograph of PW Botha looking at a woman. “When your crush died before you took a photo together but Photoshop is still alive!” captioned @Pedi_Things alongside the image.
Meanwhile opposition political party, the Congress for the People suggested that the pressure was now on DA leader, Mmusi Maimane: “The crisis caused by Kohler Barnard is going to be an acid test of his leadership and a reflection of exactly where the DA stands on the role of the arch proponents of apartheid.”
“We cannot attach any virtue to the past because it was devoid of virtue,” the party said in a statement.
DA MP Dianne Kohler Barnard apologises after sharing a Facebook post praising PW Botha pic.twitter.com/23t0A3zwE2
— City Press Online (@City_Press) October 1, 2015. News24