Established in 1975 for free speech

Cape Town Press Club once again has to set the record straight

The Cape Town Press Club committee welcomes the discussion on the purpose and functions of a press club that might positively emerge from Joylene van Wyk’s absurd opinion piece in the Cape Times. It is risible to suggest the club has been captured. There are no plans to make the club a commercial venture.

Van Wyk states she wanted to “play a decisive role in advancing the Press Club’s transformation agenda”. Her “one step simply being myself a member” has been the extent of her contribution after six years to transformation. In fact, at the dinner before the AGM election she made false allegations against a candidate, who then withdrew his nomination in confusion. Had he stood, the committee would have had the same demographic representation it had while Van Wyk was co-chair.

Van Wyk says “I was a member of good standing at the time of the AGM”. This is incorrect. Van Wyk would not have been eligible for the committee as she was not a member in good standing. She was two years in arrears with her membership. She was however spared this embarrassment being raised by members at the AGM as the immediate reason why Van Wyk failed to even stand was that she had failed to be successfully nominated in time and in accordance with the club’s constitution. She has since resigned as a member, and still owes the club R850.

Van Wyk says, “I met all the requirements in terms of the clubs rules to be nominated from the floor”. This is not true as stated above. Furthermore, although Van Wyk was present for our guest speaker on the night, she left before the AGM even commenced. She also failed to attend the 2017 AGM when she was co-chair and she didn’t even send an apology that year.

I chaired the 2018 AGM and asked from the podium after her and was surprised she had left. Aware that there was unhappiness because several other committee members had fallen off the ballot, having been too complacent to get nominated, I opened the floor three times asking if there was any comment from the floor or if anyone wanted to raise any issues. Although the former committee members were present, none of them raised any issues. In fact one of them, who had failed to make it on the ballot, even seconded two of the motions taken at the AGM.

Van Wyk alleges that: the club has been “captured”; a “committee that is heavily biased in favor of the Cape Messenger”; “half of the eight person committee are linked to one venture”; and she can “only surmise that they want to take the Cape Town Press Club in a commercial direction”.

Alarmed by Van Wyk’s accusation, as soon as the new committee met,  my first order of business as chair was to ask the other eight committee members to declare any interests they had in Cape Messenger. As the minutes recorded then and subsequently approved reflect as follows: Pressly said he was an editor; one member had a 1/100th share, and one member says his reporting is used by the Messenger from time to time. That is the extent of it. None of these three are in the executive or management of Cape Messenger or in a position to direct its organisation. I and the other six members of the committee have absolutely no connection to the Cape Messenger.

Van Wyk’s equally bizarre allegation that the club is somehow “captured” by what Van Wyk twice refers to as “Pressly’s list of candidates”. This is paranoid speculation made in the dark. Pressly proposed two candidates, one who in turn proposed Pressly. None of these three individuals proposed or seconded any of the other six candidates.

Van Wyk’s other allegation is that the AGM was somehow “manipulated”. She doesn’t say what or how. Actually, we had a huge turn out of members for the AGM. She goes on to talk of “sleight of hand”, an “election coup”, “unconstitutional”, but provides zero evidence of this except to say she has “carefully read” the constitution. No reading of the club constitution supports any of her allegations. She even complains there was “lobbying”, something completely normal for any election.

Van Wyk writes, “Meersman lulled the rest of the committee into a false sense of complacency”. There was no lulling involved. The committee was grossly complacent and Van Wyk still seems to feel she should remain on the committee ad infinitum without even following the most rudimentary process of actually getting nominated. So complacent she didn’t even pay her membership fees for two years. She now wants to blame someone else for her falling off the committee.

Pressly told me he was not going to stand for election and he sincerely meant it at the time. I communicated this to the committee at a meeting early April. The disciplinary action against him and the attempts to publicly humiliate and shame him had taken their toll on him. He wanted distance.
In the end, Pressly did change his mind. Late afternoon on the deadline day he submitted his nomination form to the secretary. He was still vacillating even as the AGM began, as I and others can attest.

I left South Africa for an extended trip overseas and I was not in the country or at the two committee meetings (in June or July) prior to the AGM. The committee Van Wyk chaired set the date of the AGM, changed the speaker and made all the arrangements without me. I returned only in mid-July.

No one has owned up to the leak of the committee’s confidential Whatsapp group that lead to the club being brought into disrepute after regrettable things were said in the heat of the moment. The facts are this: There were only six people who could have leaked it. Van Wyk was seriously aggrieved. She left the Whatsapp group. The chat was leaked within hours of this. Only two people were dealing with Parliament directly, Van Wyk and one other member of the committee, who is also not in good standing.

As a result of the leak Pressly resigned as secretary and apologised to Van Wyk. Parliament had only ever asked that the club “take Mr Pressly to task”. But this was not enough for Van Wyk, she also wanted him expelled even as an ordinary member and banned from the club of which he has been a vital part for over 20 years.

Whether they are right or wrong, I don’t know, but members of the club clearly made a decision as to who they trusted to be on the committee. Van Wyk was not going to get their vote.

Brent Meersman
Chairperson Cape Town Press Club