UFH and Mail & Guardian announce joint partnership to host National Election Debate

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Alice, 11 April 2024 -- The University of Fort Hare and the Mail & Guardian today announced a joint partnership to host the country’s National Election Debate. The event will take place at the institution’s Alice campus in the Eastern Cape on 17 April 2024.

Confirmed panellists include ANC Deputy President Paul Mashatile, Economic Freedom Fighters Deputy President Floyd Shivambu; Democratic Alliance Chief Whip Siviwe Gwarube, Inkatha Freedom Party Deputy President Inkosi Mzamo Buthelezi and ActionSA Eastern Cape Premier Candidate Athol Trollip.

The debate will be moderated by members of the Mail & Guardian’s senior editorial team.

For the University of Fort Hare, the National Election Debate forms part of centenary celebrations for Professor ZK Matthews – the university’s first graduate.  Professor Matthews was also the architect of democracy in the late fifties through his involvement with the Freedom Charter. For Mail & Guardian, the event is the culmination of a series that is being hosted at renowned South African institutions ahead of the national elections.

Early in 2023 the University’s directorate for Marketing and Communications began exploratory talks with UFH Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Professor Sakhela Buhlungu for a project to support and strengthen democracy in the national election year.  The idea involved reinstating the debate platform amongst political parties in a similar vein to the televised debate between UFH alumnus President Nelson Mandela and FW De Klerk which took place three decades ago.

“When Mail & Guardian approached us for a Town Hall event, UFH felt comfortable to pitch our national debate concept to the editorial team in Johannesburg in December last year.  The publication’s core values of truth, freedom, justice and equality is a mirror image of the University’s own values,” said JP Roodt, UFH Director: Marketing and Communications.

Roodt said the University’s Management Executive Committee (MEC) approved the National Election Debate with Mail & Guardian as part of several programmes and initiatives to honour Professor ZK Matthews in 2024.

Luke Feltham, Acting Editor of Mail & Guardian said: 

"A healthy democracy is so much more than showpiece elections every few years. It is a continuous conversation between a country's people; an open dialogue between the voter and the leaders who represent her. Events like this are integral to fulfilling that belief.

"We are elated to be working with the University Fort Hare. Over decades, our two organisations have shared an unceasing commitment to truth, transferring knowledge and holding the powerful to account. The political leaders who have agreed to offer their time likewise deserve immense credit. A strong relationship between academia, media and the political world promises another 30 years of robust democracy."

Professor Buhlungu said the role of universities during elections embodies the broader mission of fostering an informed, engaged and responsible citizenry.  

“As a nonpartisan institution, the University is the perfect setting to provide our panellists with a neutral platform to present their ideas and to express their views without fear, favour or prejudice.”

He indicated universities have a unique ability to mobilize young voters thus influencing the future political landscape.”

“Like Fort Hare, Mail & Guardian earned its credentials and played a critical part with the project of liberation and democratisation.  We see our joint venture initiative as a unique partnership, and we believe the National Election Debate is important step building a healthier democracy.”

For information, visit the microsite of the event: https://www.ufh.ac.za/ned/ .

NB:  Information for UFH Students will be shared shortly by Institutional Advancement for attendance.

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