‘Press clubs must reconsider membership’

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may 6 joemat-petterson

Independent Newspapers

Tina Joemat Pettersson, Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. Photo: Leon Nicholas

Press clubs must revisit their membership criteria and reflect on the role members should play, ANC Chief Whip Mathole Motshekga said on Sunday.

They should also “conduct a frank discussion on the desirability of having politicians as members,” Motshekga said in a statement.

Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry Minister Tina Joemat-Pettersson was to address the Cape Town Press Club on Friday, but protested when she found out that DA MP Pieter van Dalen was there.

“Minister Joemat-Pettersson said she was under the impression that being invited to a press club meant addressing members of the media, not politicians,” her adviser Rams Mabote said at the time.

Van Dalen, who is a paid up member of the press club, agreed to leave because he did not want to deny the audience the opportunity of hearing her speak.

Mabote said that had Joemat-Pettersson known it would be a political event, she would have attended in her capacity as member of the African National Congress's national executive and national working committees.

He said it appeared that Van Dalen wanted to capitalise on the briefing to continue a disagreement the two had during her budget vote speech on Thursday.

On Sunday, Motshekga said that if Joemat-Pettersson had been called on to address politicians, she would have done so.

“It is unusual and unheard of that a media conference should be turned into a space for oppositional politicking rather than a platform for engagement with the media,” Motshekga said.

“The minister's insistence that the event adhere to its core objectives was therefore reasonable.”

He said care should be taken to ensure that clubs' events did not become political battlegrounds, and they should not be abused for a particular political agenda.

The media was capable and competent enough to hold the government to account, and did not need the assistance of opposition politicians.

After Friday's incident, National Press Club chairman Yusuf Abramjee said the minister's conduct “smacks of arrogance and this nonsense must stop”.

He said he would not have allowed Joemat-Pettersson to address the meeting if she was not prepared to speak in front of Van Dalen, and that it was “disrespectful” of her to use the public platform provided by the Cape Town Press club for “petty politicking”.

Cape Town Press Club chairman Donwald Pressley found it surprising that “an elected politician and servant of the entire electorate is unable to take the heat of probing questions from whatever quarter”.

Motshekga said this reaction was “extremely uncalled for and disturbing”. - Sapa


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