The Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), SA Research Chairs Initiative Chair: African Diplomacy and Foreign Policy at UJ and the UJ library in partnership with The Citizen hosted the public debate at the university’s Kingsway Campus.
The panellists were Professor Chris Landsberg, head of the department of politics at UJ, MISTRA researcher David Maimela and political analysts Somadoda Fikeni and Aubrey Matshiqi.
The Citizen editor Steven Motale opened the event with an address.
The participants discussed President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address delivered last Thursday.
During the debate on the Sona on Tuesday and Wednesday the president was criticised for the forcible removal of the EFF and the DA’s walkout, among other issues.
“We are not going to be analysing the speech (the Sona) paragraph by paragraph, and I won’t analyse the theatrics beforehand,” said Fikeni.
Some of the points raised were on the leadership of South Africa, how the media portrays and covers political issues and the health of the country’s democracy.
“What’s critical for me is that news, contrary to what some will have us believe, is a construct of selection,” said Matshiqi.
“News is a function of selection, and selecting is a function of (some) news not being valued.”
Matshiqi added that there were two kinds of people who engaged in the discourse about leadership in the country.
“[Those] engaging with the lack of leadership dishonestly” and “[those] that believe South Africa has a lack of leadership and leaders”.
“We are an argumentative and noisy democracy and generate more heat and less light,” said Fikeni, adding that “we lack the tools” to analyse the complex situation in South Africa.
Maimela added that since 1994 the Sona had been very predictable in terms of content and that the 2015 address didn’t highlight anything new.
“A disappointing element of Sona 2015 [was that] it did not capture questions of race and xenophobia,” he said.
Fikeni pointed out how personalities in politics have caused the values of parties to shift and focus on defending individual leaders.
Maimela added that the economy wouldn’t work “without establishing quality and a sustainable democracy”.