Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, Pieter van Dalen, has stepped up to the pulpit largely created by the likes of fisheries commentator, Shaheen Moolla over recent months. On Friday he was once again catapulted into the media spotlight when he was asked to leave the Press Club meeting due to be addressed by none other than DAFF Minister, Tina Joemat-Pettersson.
The debate that has ensued has been interesting as have the comments made by the Minister during the briefing.
While I support the quest that Van Dalen has undertaken to make the minister accountable to her constituency as defined by the Department’s title, and I support his right to be at the meeting as a member of the Press Club – I do wonder at the legitimacy of a Press Club’s constitution that opens its membership to unrelated sectors.
As a member of the media I do not (and cannot) belong to professional industry clubs for accountants, doctors or the like; and I wonder if politicians take an equal interest in joining such professional clubs.
And so my take on the whole affair:
Minister Joemat-Pettersson should probably have anticipated the (political and media) uproar that was going to follow her demands to have Pieter van Dalen removed and would have come out smelling sweeter than the perlemoen she keeps accumulating for the Department had she just got on with it. Let’s face it – any question that Van Dalen was likely to ask, the press had already got waiting for her anyway.
Pieter van Dalen as a member of the Press Club had every right to be there. Whether the Press Club should open their doors to politicians is an entirely different debate and one which should probably be addressed. His decision to leave can be considered political gesturing for the sake of the media, but at the end of the day it was really probably the only logical decision he could make.
The Press Club should reconsider their constitution in terms of membership criteria. Ironically – although currently not a member of the Cape Town Press Club – this incident has made me reconsider this decision.
The comments made by the minister are not the topic of this blog, but certainly worth following up on by both journalists and politicians, irrespective of their membership to any professional clubs! We should all be pressing on to ensure that the current questions surrounding the minister’s leadership of the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are fully answered.