Will Ivo Vegter fall on his own sword?

Here is the response of TKAG to the latest article of ‘cautiously’ pro-fracking journalist, Ivo Vegter. His article may be read here: 

The recent announcement by the South African government that it intends to licence, ‘push ahead with’, ‘force-through’ shale gas mining in South Africa, is a double-edged sword for Mr. Vegter and his supporters. On the one hand, it delivers the victory for which they have so ardently campaigned – drill baby drill. On the other, Mr. Vegter’s job is done – he will have to find something else to write about. TKAG’s work is just starting.

Were I one of Mr. Vegter’s supporters (and by the way – wouldn’t a public list of pro-frackers and greenies be useful at some future point in SA) or indeed Mr. Vegter himself, I just may, in private moments and away from the euphoria of the ‘hip-hip-hurrah’s’ be a tad concerned that one or two of the ‘small and easily manageable issues’ prophesied by the ridiculed greenies may come to pass.

Mr. Vegter’s article re-visits many of the traditional debate points around shale gas mining. I do not intend to respond to these. My silence will not constitute agreement with those statements. I do intend to address some inaccuracies in connection with TKAG – for the record. No apology or retraction is expected or required.

1. The proposition on which the recent debate in Grahamstown revolved referred to the holistic environment. Perhaps to clarify and qualify that this was a debate in South Africa, about South African conditions I should have said ‘in South Africa‘. Prof Keeton and Mr. Vegter assumed that the debate was about shale gas mining in America where, according to them, the efficacy of the process has been proven. Although I disagree, I have said that I wouldn’t be debating those issues in this response. In my view, the holistic environment in South Africa would include: the laws (and the lack of laws), the ANC/Shell connection, the potential for disruption of sustainable activities like agriculture and tourism and the lack of an open study related thereto, the potential for water pollution and the failure of the applicants to play open cards about sourcing and disposing of water, the dismally inadequate environmental management plans of the applicants, the documented divisions in scientific opinion on the process of shale gas mining, the documented inability of the Department of Minerals to control other mining operations in South Africa, the lack of structured input from other government departments such as health, transport, agriculture, and rural development; and so on. That is a selection of the issues that should be weighed up in South Africa when considering the efficacy of shale gas mining.

2. The video montage to which Mr. Vegter refers was produced by Michael Raimondo of Green Renaissance without reference to TKAG. This is not the first time, by a long shot that Mr. Vegter has made incorrect statements about me and TKAG, but I do not intend to revisit those here.

3. Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor is not a committee member of TKAG and TKAG has no input into the website of his company.

4. Mr. Vegter’s assertions of ‘flat-out lies’ and unproven claims appear to refer to the video which he has mistakenly ascribed to TKAG. We reject those assertions within that context.

5. Mr. Vegter’s predictions and assumptions of how the legal battle may turn out, and what TKAG is trying to do are noted.

In keeping with past ripostes on this column, I expect that Mr. Vegter’s supporters will quickly rally with the traditional cries of ad hominem, and playing balls, not men. It is disappointing that while Ivo is applauded for sarcasm and personal attacks, his opponents are vilified should they venture even slightly in that direction.

Although it may transpire to be one of Mr. Vegter’s last articles on fracking – and could even signal the end of his ‘cautiously’ pro-fracking career, (now that his job is done), I have at least learned a new phrase ‘agit-prop’.

Speaking of ‘balls’, it appears that the ball is in the government’s court. Perhaps Mr. Vegter could be usefully employed crafting pro-fracking rhetoric for the ANC and Shell.

4 responses

  1. I made it clear that I didn’t require nor expect an apology. I have become accustomed to your version of an apology – sarcasm, swiftly supported by a literary tirade. In contrast, when I recently incorrectly attributed a remark to you, and you pointed it out, I had the courage and grace to issue a simple one-line apology on the same forum.

    And no, I don’t distance TKAG from WESSA or Green Renaissance and it is, in my view, obtuse of you to suggest that I would seek to do so. The bottom line is, check your facts. Thoroughly. I thought you would have learned that after telling people that I have a farm close to Prince Albert, and after unsuccessfully (on Twitter) trying to wriggle out of factual errors in a piece in an Afrikaans newspaper on the basis that they changed your text when in fact you had the final article in your hands to proof read before it was published. I have asked you before to hold yourself to the same standards that you demand of the ‘greens’.

    Mr. Vegter, you made a few mistakes, your information is inaccurate and your bolt is shot. It is unhelpful to rake through detailed history in a ‘he said – she said’ response. You have achieved what you wanted via the government, and in my view your bolt is shot.


    Unhelpful? When you rake over old coals to distract from the issue at hand?

    You accused me of getting the facts wrong in this column. I take that seriously, as a journalist should. That you did not expect an apology or correction does not give you the right to make accusations unanswered, nor does it absolve me of the journalistic
    duty to correct mistakes, if indeed I made any.

    So, as a matter of journalistic integrity, I’d like to uncover who exactly lied to me about the TKAG’s involvement with the WESSA fracking debate in George on 20 November 2012, and its association with the Green Renaissance video, both of which served to collect donations on the TKAG’s behalf. I don’t think that is unhelpful at all. Do you maintain that Green Renaissance lied about the TKAG’s involvement with their video, and both WESSA and Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor lied about his being an executive committee member of the TKAG?

    If so, I clearly ought to do background checks on people claiming to represent the TKAG, and my apology is sincere. The lesson I’d take from that is not to take environmentalists at their word, even about the most trivial matters. If not, however, you’re accusing me, WESSA, Jeremy Taylor and Green Renaissance unjustly of lying, when in fact you yourself lied in your post above. That would also teaches me a lesson about the trustworthiness of environmentalists. Help me to decide which lesson is the correct lesson to learn.

    As for the old coals, I wish to register a protest at your description of me trying to “wriggle out” of a “factual error”. On that occasion, you pointed out an attribution ambiguity in a translated column for Rapport, which an ungenerous reader could interpret as me stating an oil company claim as my own opinion. I promptly explained what happened, showed you my original English copy, noted that whenever I mentioned that point before I attributed it correctly (and expressed my personal doubt about it), and apologised for not spotting the translation oversight that introduced the ambiguous attribution in this case. I also retracted my statement that “applicants” (plural) have committed to disclose chemicals used, since only Shell is formally on the record in this regard, and it is a trivial matter to require it as part of exploration licence agreements. How is that “wriggling out” of it? Or you worried that readers might think the matter sufficiently minor that an apology and retraction cleared it up and we could let it rest? Is your raking through a detailed history of an old case useful, whereas my response to the allegation you made yesterday about my column, published yesterday, is not useful?

    I contend, sir, that it would be extremely useful to determine whether you, on one hand, or WESSA, Jeremy Westgarth-Taylor, and Green Renaissance on the other hand, lied to me about their association with TKAG. If it is the latter, you may want to explain to your friends and allies not to embarrass you by lying to the media about your campaign. And again, I sincerly apologise for believing them. Or you


    Jeremy Taylor is not a committee member of TKAG. WESSA and Taylor did not lie to you, because Taylor was involved as a member of the TKAG committee at the time. Michael Raimondo made the video WITHOUT REFERENCE to TKAG (read please: WE WERE NOT INVOLVED IN THE INTERVIEWS OR IN ANY PART OF THE PLANNING OR PRODUCTION OF THE VIDEO). I have said that I do not distance TKAG from the video, Green Renaissance or Michael Raimondo – but that does not establish cause for you to credit TKAG with the production of the video and then use the contents of the video to snipe at TKAG in a display of journalistic integrity for your supporters. Same as you told your readers that TKAG had funded the trips of Dougie Stern and Lukie Strydom to the US. Which was another FACT that you were WRONG about.

Your salutation of an apology is as sarcastic and insincere as ever.

    Now, I think TKAG has invested quite enough time in you – there are far bigger fish to fry. Your bolt is shot, and I am not going to assist you by keeping your name in the fracking debate. Goodbye.

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