08/10/2010 Tina Joemat Pettersson Minister of Agriculture Forestry and Fisheries during the AgriSA congress, held at Mulderdrift Roodepoort. Photo: Leon Nicholas


The DA has asked Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe to investigate Agriculture, Fisheries, and Forestry Minister Tina

Joemat-Pettersson's refusal to address the Cape Town Press Club.

“In behaving the way she did at the Press Club on Friday, Minister Joemat-Pettersson violated the executive ethics code that governs the behaviour of ministers,” Democratic Alliance MP Pieter Van Dalen said in a statement.

Joemat-Pettersson protested about addressing the briefing when she found out that Van Dalen was there, apparently in the belief that he wanted to use the opportunity to continue a disagreement they had during her budget vote speech on Thursday.

At the time, her adviser said she had been under the impression she would be addressing the media, not politicians, and that had she 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.

Van Dalen, who is a paid up member of the Cape Town Press Club, said at the time that he agreed to leave because he did not want to deny the audience the opportunity of hearing her speak.

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

They should also “conduct a frank discussion on the desirability of having politicians as members”.

The National Press Club responded that its membership was open only to the media and communication practitioners.

“This is stated in our constitution, which is also available on our website. The Cape Town Press Club is not affiliated to the National Press Club and it has its own constitution and policies.”

In his statement on Sunday, Van Dalen said the members of the Cape Town Press Club included business people, diplomats, members of the media and other professionals.

“That this minister did not appear to know this when she accepted the invitation to speak at the club cannot be construed as an attempt by the club to 'misguide' her,” he said.

“Minister Joemat-Pettersson should be reprimanded for her unwillingness to engage with interested parties around the issues in her department, not shielded from scrutiny.”

He said the executive eithics code required that members of the executive “perform their duties and exercise their powers diligently and honestly”, that they “act in good faith and in the best interest of good governance”, and “in a manner that is consistent with the integrity of their office or the government”.

In deciding whether they complied, the president had to “take into account the promotion of an open, democratic and accountable government”, Van Dalen said.

He claimed that Joemat-Pettersson's action had undermined the principles of openness and accountability.

In his defence of Joemat-Pettersson, Motshekga said that if she 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,” he 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. - Sapa