Get To Know Dianne Kohler Barnard

1. How did you come to join your political party and become an MP?

I was a journalist, and the-then leader of the Democratic Alliance, Tony Leon, approached me and convinced me to go through the application process. I was looking to leave the SABC as the political pressures on journalists had begun once again. And here I am - 18 years later!

2. What is one goal that you would like to achieve during your time as an MP?

I have served on five different portfolio committees, and hope that the oversight I have done in each, the revelations of potential corruption, the holding of members of the Departments of each portfolio, will encourage others to drive an equally strong narrative. There is often strong opposition to determined oversight, to outing department members determined to obey unacceptable political instructions which will not only hold no benefit to our citizens, but may also actively restrict them in their moves to be safe, and live honest, productive lives. Pushing for the Zondo commission findings to be investigated, the looted money returned, and the perpetrators jailed, will be the aim for the remainder of this term.

3. What does your job as an MP entail, and what do you find challenging/demanding?

As I see it, an MP must split their work-life in half - with 50% of their time going to working in their Constituency, and 50% working on their Parliamentary duties to portfolio and party. It's all a balancing act. Currently, as eThekwini (where I live) is collapsing, assisting the Councillors in my Constituency is extremely difficult as the stresses of hundreds upon hundreds of calls from desperate residents with no water or electricity, or with sewage flowing their yards, is extremely debilitating for them.

4. Which constituency office have you been assigned to? Can you give examples of constituency work you engage in?

I am head of the Central Durban Constituency - and do regular public meetings, oversight to, for example Police Stations, Clinics - and all other such entities in the area. I work hand in hand with the 11 Councillors (mainly Ward Councillors) in this Constituency.

5. How do you think Parliament can drive more public participation in policy, legislation and voting?

I've watched with concern as thousands of inputs by citizens in relation to various proposed pieces of legislation, are summarily dismissed by committees who claim they say the same thing, and are therefore irrelevant. That is 100% unacceptable to me. We need more participation, and if this manner of sending in comments is discarded, then it is decimating the citizenry's rights to give their opinion. Scrapping inputs in this manner seems nothing more than downgrading public inputs to a tickbox exercise, the results of which are discarded should they reflect a disagreement with the proposed legislation.

The more committees are seen working on the ground - seeing for themselves the reality of the situation - the better the voters like it.

6. What are you passionate about, both professionally and personally?

Standing up for what is right.

7. Which social justice issues are you most concerned with?

Crime. It is now endemic, and the psychological damage it is doing to our citizens who are robbed, beaten, attacked, and terrorised, is inordinate. This country is failing dismally to get crime under control, or to convince South Africans that this behaviour is utterly unacceptable. There are global syndicates pushing drugs, human trafficking, prostitution and kidnapping, all now working within our country. And our Crime Intelligence has been hamstrung. The revelations of the Zondo Commission were heartbreaking. The theft and destruction was as inexplicable as it was inexcusable.

8. Does Parliament do a good job of holding the Executive to account? If not, what can be done to improve this?

Rarely. Members of the Executive frequent the portfolio committees and often behave as if they are chairing or somehow superior to those on the committee - which in fact does oversight over what they do. Efforts by members of the Democratic Alliance are often blocked, as faithful party members protect their Ministers - which actions run counter to what MPs swear to do when they enter Parliament.

9. What are your or your party's aspirations/plans for the remainder of the Sixth Parliament?

We have extremely strong principles and policies, and we drive these in every sector - be it in a portfolio, during speeches and on public platforms. We are a giant organisation and the MPs in Parliament are the national cogs to a finely-tuned blue machine. All focus is obviously on the next election.

10. What obstacles prevent Parliament from doing its work and how would you fix it?

The burning of Parliament was a seminal moment for our Democracy. There are many, many questions unanswered, and a single arrest is, I believe, insufficent. I believe there to have been far more to this destruction of our heritage than meets the eye. We need a new building up and working asap, and the National Assembly rebuilt without the delays we have come to expect. However, the portfolio committees are working, thankfully the proposed Zoom platforms are now the norm, but the sooner we are properly back at work - in person - the better for our country.

View Ms Barnard's profile here.


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