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First black Press Club chairperson quits

Donwald Pressly Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Donwald Pressly Picture: David Ritchie/African News Agency

Published Aug 13, 2018


Cape Town - The embattled Cape Town Press Club, slammed for electing an all-white and near all-male executive, has suffered another setback with the resignation of its first black co-chairperson, Joylene van Wyk, in the wake of a Cape Times exposé.

And the election of Donwald Pressly remains unexplained.

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An ANC provincial chairperson hopeful is due to address the club on Friday.

Van Wyk, a senior journalist at Parliament for Landbou Weeklad and former chairperson of the Parliament Press Gallery Association, said in her resignation letter to the Press Club: “I have been a dues-paying member for the last five years and also served on the executive as the first black co-chairperson of the club.

“However, for personal reasons I find it necessary to give up my membership, effective immediately. I would consider to take up membership again when the environment is more conducive.

“I would greatly appreciate your acknowledgement and release of all further dues, fees and obligations.”

Interviewed by the Cape Times on Sunday, Van Wyk said she had no confidence that the all-white committee would attract black journalists to be members.

She also had no confidence in their ability to manage the principles of the club.

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“It doesn’t matter what you do, it remains an elitist club,” Van Wyk said.

“If you came from Mars and stepped into a function you could see what was happening. It’s got that elitist vibe, with black journalists sitting on the side, and the elite eating cake.”

Brent Meersman was selected as chairperson, and Pressly is co-vice chairperson with Marilyn Keegan.

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The other executives are secretary Lalage Maurer, members Andrew Donaldson, Brian Hopkins, Clive Keegan, Mark Novitz and Sue Segar.

Meersman said on Sunday they accepted Van Wyk’s resignation.

But by Sunday night she had not been contacted, Van Wyk said.

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On Sunday Meersman repeated a statement last week to the Cape Times: “We are looking to change the committee to make it more representative. We will look through the members and approach those who would like to volunteer.”

He did not know how many black members the club had.

Pressly was suspended from the club for what Parliament described as an “astonishingly vitriolic attack” on National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise.

Pressly had alerted club members about a mid-term report briefing on the work of the fifth Parliament, and asked: “What is so important about ANC thugs wanting to advertise their press conference, which is NOT our function.”

At the time of his resignation in February, Pressly told the Cape Times: “I decided to resign to avoid any embarrassment for the Press Club. I have no interest in undermining the name of the Press Club. I thought it was best to quietly leave the organisation and I will be working closely with the new administration so they can continue with the good work I am putting all this behind me and hope that the press club has a great future.”

The Press Club co-vice chairperson Martin Slabbert-Capper said at the time: “Pressly said he was keen that the club did not suffer any reputational damage in any way going forward, hence his resignation. 

"We consider this matter closed. The Cape Town Press Club is a non-partisan platform, and we look forward to continuing to attract speakers from across the political spectrum and from all walks of life.”

Pressly was also previously dismissed by Independent Media as Business Report’s Cape Town bureau chief and parliamentary correspondent following an internal disciplinary process in 2014. He had applied to become a DA member. His application was rejected by the DA.

Last week Pressly did not respond to the Cape Times’ requests for comment, and on Sunday he answered his phone but refused to comment.

He referred questions to Meersman.

ANC MPL Cameron Dugmore had been invited to speak on transport at the club on Friday. He said on Sunday he would leave it up the party’s leadership to decide whether he should go ahead.

“I am a member of the ANC and will be guided by the organisation as to whether I should honour the invitation of the Cape Town Press Club to speak about the public transport crisis on Friday.

“As someone deeply committed to transformation and representivity in both the public and private sector, I don’t think anyone can ignore the composition of the recently elected leadership.

“Some strides have been made in transforming the ownership patterns of the media industry in our country. And our newsrooms have become much more representative of the population as a whole,” Dugmore said.

“But much work remains to be done. It is thus deeply disappointing to me that the Cape Town Press Club has, according to reports, elected a leadership consisting of only white members. They owe everyone an explanation.”

ANC provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said they would review participating in events, including the one on Friday, unless the club urgently reviewed the composition of the committee.

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Cape Times

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