DA chief whip accused of disability discrimination


FILE. The DA's John Steenhuisen (centre) sits next to Mmusi Maimane the new Democratic Alliance leader in Parliament on on May 29, 2014 in Cape Town.

PARLIAMENT – The ANC said it is considering taking legal action against DA chief whip John Steenhuisen following his remarks in Parliament on Thursday.

Steenhuisen is accused of uttering discriminatory remarks about Minister of Justice and Correctional Service Michael Masutha. The ANC claims Steenhuisen had mocked Masutha’s visual disability.

The incident occurred during a vote on the Budget report for the Department of Higher Education and Training.

Masutha had risen on a point of order and asked the presiding officer to confirm the number of DA MPs present as he could not do so because of his visual impairment.

“This valid procedural enquiry was met with shocking crudeness by the chief whip of the DA, who mocked the minister’s visual challenge and openly stated it was to blame for the challenges allegedly facing his department. The utterance by Steenhuisen is not only careless and outrageous, but shockingly discriminatory,” said a statement issued by the ANC on Friday.

The party added that Steenhuisen’s comment suggested that Masutha, who is partially sighted, is inherently incompetent, unintelligent and not fit to lead the department.

“The DA chief whip’s disgraceful jibe illustrates the type of ignorance that reinforces disturbing and dangerous stereotypes against people living with disability. Steenhuisen’s remarks were not only insulting to the minister – an experienced parliamentarian and a brilliant legal mind – but also to the many people living with disability,” it said.

But Steenhuisen has rejected ANC’s claims.

“What the ANC is saying is not true. I would never discriminate individuals with disability. In that moment I was referring to Masutha’s clear ignorance of parliamentary rules and saying am not surprised our country is in trouble because our minister of justice behaves in such a manner. What I said had nothing to do with Masutha&39;s visual challenge,” said Steenhuisen.

Listen to the exchange yourself here. Listen from 4:53:26