Donwald Pressly. Picture Leon Lestrade
The Cape Town Press Club has come under fire for its all-white, predominantly male committee, with calls for it to re-elect a more diverse body representative of the country’s demographic as it “mimicked the apartheid era”.

In a tweet following the recent election of a new committee, parliamentary communication services division manager Moloto Mothapo said: “Cape Town Press Club has reverted to its old pre-1994 self, just elected an all-white committee, replacing diverse committee. Even reinstated Donwald Pressly - fired previously for applying to be a DA MP while a journo; insulting and barring politicians he dislikes from engaging (the) club.”

The club recently selected the committee at its annual general meeting, with Brent Meersman as the chairperson and Donwald Pressly as the co-vice chairperson. Others include co-vice chairperson Marilyn Keegan, secretary Lalage Maurer, members Andrew Donaldson, Brian Hopkins, Clive Keegan, Mark Novitz and Sue Segar.

Pressly was selected despite being suspended last year for what Parliament described as an “astonishingly vitriolic attack” on National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairperson Thandi Modise.

This was when he 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.”

He later apologised for his comments.

Pressly was previously dismissed by Independent Media as Business Report’s Cape Town bureau chief and parliamentary correspondent following an internal disciplinary process in 2014.

He was found to have violated the company’s editorial code of conduct and code of ethics by applying to become a DA MP while being employed by the company. The DA rejected his application.

Mothapo yesterday said he had tweeted in his personal capacity. However, sentiments expressed when Pressly was suspended still stood. He had said: “Mr Pressly’s livid refusal to let the Press Club members know about the briefing was unwarranted and at odds with the club’s stated objectives - “to promote the professional, social and other interests of Cape Town’s press, media and communications industries, and thereby to endeavour to enhance, uphold and defend the fundamental rights of freedom of speech, conscience and association, principles secured in the Constitution”.

“The Cape Town Press Club prides itself on being the oldest such club in South Africa Given its history and the fact that several of its members report on Parliament, it is reasonable to expect the club to take Mr Pressly to task for his unwarranted derogatory remarks about the national legislature’s leadership.”

Pressly could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Meersman said: “None of us are incredibly happy with the fact that it is an all-white committee. We are going to co-opt more people into the committee. We want representatives from different voices. An organisation grows and develops so much better if there are people from various perspectives. We would like to see that.”

Referring to the social media criticism, he said: “We are going ahead and we will be co-opting people who want to volunteer their time and want to be part of the Press Club. No one is being excluded.” On the lack of women representation, he said: “This year we had the same female representation we had last year.

“We raised this and spoke about this quite openly, especially after Lindiwe Mazibuko gave a speech. We would very much like to see more women on the committee, and that could be achieved through co-operation.”

He said Pressly had been “severely sanctioned” for his comments. “He also immediately apologised to Parliament and, as far as I know, that apology was accepted. It’s now nine months later and this individual never, ever had any position again because of something that was inadvisedly said in a private conversation,” said Meerman.

SA National Editors’ Forum chairperson Mahlatse Gallens declined to comment, saying she had not seen the new committee.

The ANC has called on the club to urgently reconsider its committee. Party provincial secretary Faiez Jacobs said: “While we respect the independence of the media, as enshrined in our Constitution, it is also important that institutions such as the Press Club reflect South African society.”