by KAY TATYANA SELISHO
Judging from the second ever Live Magazine VIP debate, the politicians and IEC were right to amp up their efforts to engage the youth and get them more involved in this year’s election. As Deep Fried Man said, the youth of South Africa are “very politically switched on and active.” Add a mention of their intelligence to that and you’ve got a snapshot of what the Live VIP debate was all about.
Hands often went up in a flurry on the day and while certain audience members raised some brilliant points, others were not shy to get vocal to show just how much they agreed or disagreed with said points. Danyal Zaal from Mitchells Plain, one of four participants streaming in via Google Hangouts from around the country, kicked off the debate with a very fitting question by asking the representatives to let us know why we should trust them and their parities. This ties in to the fact that even though – according to the IEC – more South Africans have registered to vote in this years election than ever before, most of us still aren’t 100% sure who to vote for.
Of the 29 parties contesting this years election, the ANC, EFF, DA and Agang SA (often referred to as the main contenders) were in attendance to take questions from both the physical and online audience. On behalf on the DA we had Mmusi Maimane, Advocate Dali Mpofu from the EFF, Andrew Gasnolar from Agang SA and Mawethu Rune of the ANC. With the help of Cathy Mohlahlana from eNCA – as debate moderator – everyone got a chance to speak, no question went unanswered and no politician got away with any uh, BS.
One audience member found it apt to ask the panel of politicians on their take on what politics means today and what the role of a modern- day politician is. Andrew Gasnolar kept his answer short, defining modern day politics as an all-encompassing task while Mmusi Maimane stated that “bad politicians talk about freedom for themselves, good politicians think about freedom for all.” Mawethu Rune said that part of being a politician and what politics should strive to do is come across various divisions (age, race, gender, religion) to become a government that represents the aspirations of all (did he mean ANC?). As is usually the case in political conversations, the topic of corruption quickly came up – with Advocate Dali Mpofu going as far as to crack an African National “Corruption” joke – to which Mawethu Rune replied by claiming that corruption a societal issue and emphasizing that it is not just an issue that the ANC is involved in.
Feeding off what the panellists’ comments, another audience member (Thando) stated that “there had been the widespread use of words like ‘our,’ ‘us’ and ‘Africans’ in a lot of political rhetoric” with politicians always emphasising the fact that we must all fight against a common struggle. She then followed up with a question about what this common struggle is and who exactly fits into this general collective that they are always referring to. Mmusi Maimane defined it as “the common struggle to survive” in the face of life costing more than the income that people bring in under our current economy. He added that we live in a reality where some can afford to throw food away while others have to go without food for three days.
In the on-going effort to engage the youth, education is always a topic of interest with most parties pushing more or less the same agenda. An audience member took this one step further by asking Andrew Gasnolar what Agang SA would do to improve overall education in South Africa outside of making education free and increasing/amending NSFAS funding. His answer was that given that chance, Agang SA would keep a closer eye on overall education from the qualification of teachers to the actual education system – what children are being taught in schools – all while keeping an end-goal (a career in mind) to tailor education to a student’s career path. To that, Mmusi Maimane added that we need to link our education system to what is happening in the economic space in order to create a tailor made workforce for each industry.
In the midst of the post-debate interview rush, I caught up with a few audience members to speak to them about the debate. Jack Tlokosti – one of the audience members who was there on behalf of Love Life – finds such events “very fascinating because they get to challenge the thoughts in everyone’s mind and speak directly to the parties.” He also appreciates the number of representatives on the panel because he believes that “we have different mindsets and [political] tastes so it’s important that we choose.” Fortunate Hlongwane (who was also in the crowd) considers debates like this very essential and says that “we need them.”
The politicians were right to trust in the youth and focus their attention on them. So isn’t it time we, as the youth, give them a chance to earn our trust and prove why they deserve our vote by exercising this right and heading to the polls on May 7th?
Tell us. #LiveVIPZA
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