A reply to the Cape Times - Cape Town Press Club

Committee says it would have approached the Press Ombud, but newspaper is not a member

Cape Town Press Club response to recent Cape Times’ reports and social media comments 

The Cape Town Press Club Committee has noted a handful of false, inaccurate and misleading remarks made on social media, some of which were regurgitated verbatim by the Cape Times nonetheless, in two articles run on Friday and Monday.

We must emphasise that The Cape Town Press Club is a voluntary organisation. We do not represent Cape Town’s media. Although we take up other issues of concern to the media, such as the defence of journalists or laws that threaten our freedom of speech, most of our business is simply to provide a newsworthy platform for speakers to air their views and answer questions from the media and concerned citizens.

The current committee is made up of the eight people in good standing who volunteered to be on it and were nominated and approved at the AGM. They were not elected over and above any other members as implied by reports.

The new committee only met for the first time on Monday 6 August and at that meeting it was discussed and agreed that the committee co-opt members in the interests of a more diverse representation to volunteer their time for the committee. This was five days before the Cape Times started its “exposé” and before it solicited comment from the ANC calling for a review of the composition of the committee.

As stated clearly at the AGM, the constitution says: the “Committee reserves the right to co-opt additional individuals from the Club's membership, especially to ensure media representation in the spirit of Section 2”; section 2 says: “The objectives of the Club shall be 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.”

We believe social transformation is part of the spirit of section 2.

We have uploaded a list of corrections to inaccurate Twitter posts, social media comments and Cape Times’ reporting, which you might have seen, on this link: Response to Cape Times and social media statements and also pasted below for your convenience. It is not an exhaustive list of the  factual and other errors you may have read.

Regarding the Cape Times reporting, the press club would normally have considered approaching the Press Ombudsman, but Independent quit the Press Council in 2016 and is no longer bound by its ethics.

The Cape Town Press Club Committee

13 August 2018

Corrections for the record:

“Press Club all white, one woman”

The headline in the Cape Times. In fact, including our secretary there are three women out of nine at committee meetings; two of them senior office bearers.

“just elected an all-white committee” (Twitter) and “electing an all-white and near all-male executive” (Cape Times)

Once again, except for the secretary, the committee is made up of volunteers who give their time freely and are not paid. These were the only eight people who stood and they therefore formed the committee.  

“Cape Town Press Club has reverted to its old pre-1994 self” (Twitter)

The press club was hated by the apartheid government because it defended freedom of speech and the press. Members of the current committee were in fact hounded by apartheid security police and one of them was a banned person for five years under the apartheid regime.

“resignation of its first black co-chairperson Joylene van Wyk in the wake of a Cape Times exposé” (Cape Times)

Van Wyk resigned after she failed to make it on to the committee because she was not eligible for election, having failed to be successfully nominated and seconded in time for the AGM. She then said she did not recognise the new committee, making it very hard for her to be co-opted on to it as a solution. She has now also resigned as a member.

Van Wyk’s resignation letter is quoted by the Cape Times as “I have been a dues-paying member for the last five years”

A review of our records finds that Van Wyk is in arrears with her membership subscription, having not paid fees in 2016 or 2017.

“Cape Town Press Club's new All-White exec made up of ex journos, lawyer, PR rep, ex politician etc &” (Twitter)

Four of the eight are active journalists, plus one retired, making five. A committee should not be made up solely of the practitioners it represents; so a good committee should have a legal expert, someone with business expertise and someone in communications. That is the committee we have and it is stronger for it.

“of course its 200 members mostly govt apparatchiks” (Twitter)

We do not know what was meant by this or what government it is referring to. There are a dozen foreign diplomats, 40 journalists, a dozen academics, only three ex-politicians we are aware of. Almost nobody in the club is an employee of government – city, provincial or national.

“This is Stokvel, bastion of discrimination, definitely NOT a Press Club.” (Twitter)

This is a very serious and outrageous allegation made without a shred of evidence. The press club is a voluntary organisation and does not practise discrimination of any kind.

Van Wyk is quoted in the Cape Times as saying she has “no confidence in their [2018 committee’s] ability to manage the principles of the club ...  it remains an elitist club”

Van Wyk was on the committee for the last six years and co-chair much of that time. It is only the week after she falls off the committee that she suddenly sees the club now as “elitist”.

 “Oh, even reinstated Donwald Pressly - fired previously for applying to be DA MP while journo; (Twitter)

Even though this was also part of the front-page story in the Cape Times on Friday, it is very old history dating back to 2014, and speaks of personal animus against him, which is not shared by the club membership.

Pressly founded the Barry Streek fund and it is thanks to him that the press club has been able to give eight young black journalists bursaries and continues to give annually. The CCMA also overturned Pressly’s unlawful firing by Independent; he was reinstated and subsequently retrenched.  

“insulting & barring politicians he dislike from engaging Club” (Twitter)

There is no evidence for this or a DA bias as implied. Jacob Zuma addressed the club three times; Ebrahim Rasool, Faiez Jacobs, Kgalema Motlanthe, Jeremy Cronin and Blade Nzimande all spoke at the club at Pressly’s direct invitation.

Politicians who spoke at the club over the past 24 months: 8 from ANC, 4 from DA, 2 from SACP, 1 from UDM. We also had Julius Malema (EFF) and Prince Buthelezi (IFP) speak

“Bona fide journos in CT must form authentic Press Club” (Twitter)

Others have tried and failed; forming and maintaining a professional press club is no small task nor easily achieved. It requires substantial resources, funds and unpaid volunteers. The Cape Town Press Club has all of these.

Issued by the Cape Town Press Club, 13 August 2018