DIANNE KOHLER-BARNARD worked in media as a journalist for just over two decades before she became a Member of Parliament. She has served as an MP for ten years, and has also served as a whip and the Shadow Minister of Police for the Democratic Alliance.
Political background: I completed 10 years in Parliament and will be coming back for another 5 years. Prior to that, I was a journalist for 23 years in radio, television, magazines and newspapers but this was at the SABC where the pressures from the ANC were being felt heavily and I was having to fight against orders which were inherently biased. I was looking to leave and the DA headhunted me so I agreed to go through their interview process to test the waters and it was a good fit. By “head hunted” I mean Tony Leon came to me and convinced me that I could make a difference if I agreed to stand for the DA. All journalists were under enormous pressure to toe the party line and I had had enough so I left and one career began another.
Highlights of Parliament: I think, probably, being elected to be Federal Deputy-Chair for the DA and winning elections within my party. I am also Deputy-Chairperson in my province of KwaZulu-Natal but I think the highlight is probably the jailing of Jackie Selebi. While serving on the Health Committee, a highlight was the discrediting of Manto Tshabala-Msimang and her garlic and beetroot theories. Then came Selebi, Bheki Cele and Richard Mdluli, all of whom I pushed very hard to rid the SAPS of.
What does my job involve? My job of MP has duel responsibilities - one is running my South Durban Constituency, and I’m serving my second term as KZN Provincial Deputy Chairperson, while the other is being here in Parliament doing oversight over the SAPS, the IPID, the Police Secretariat and the Private Security Industry Regulation Authority (PSIRA). I am the Shadow Minister of Police and also sit on the Ethics and Members' Interests Committee (7 years). The Parliamentary Leader will discuss with me which Portfolio I will take on in the Fifth Parliament.
Highlights of my constituency work: I have a South-Durban constituency, which runs from Durban down to Umkomaas, and this includes rural, urban and industrial areas so it is a very mixed constituency. Recently we (the DA) had a by-election and won it by a landslide beating the ANC and the Minority Front massively, showing that was a party of the past so this constituency was doing very well indeed.
I am passionate about working – as a journalist I worked 24 hours a day, seven days a week and I do the exact same thing now. I am a workaholic. I also read every newspaper printed. I seldom go through a day without reading three to five newspapers so I have retained the massive interest in news I had as a journalist.
My message [is that I] believe that SA can be the country you want to live in. Where my party governs, we have the best possible track record with clean audits, job creation, clean streets as well as massive delivery to the poor. We take our jobs very seriously and we are not in it for what we can get out of this job.
For more on Ms Kohler Barnard, visit her profile.
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