Empowering the youth: UCT hosts political debate

17 May 2024 | Story Stephen Langtry. Photos Lerato Maduna. VP Team Ruairi Abrahams, Boikhutso Ntsoko, and Nomfundo Xolo. Read time 6 min.

In anticipation of South Africa’s national and provincial elections scheduled to take place on 29 May 2024, the Department of Student Affairs (DSA) together with the University of Cape Town (UCT) student governance structures and the Youth Advisory Panel of the Royal Danish Embassy, hosted a debate between students and political parties.

The event took place on the evening of 9 May, in the Sarah Baartman Hall. Seven political parties were represented at the debate: ActionSA, the African National Congress (ANC), Build One South Africa (BOSA), the Democratic Alliance (DA), the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), GOOD, and Rise Mzansi (RISE).

The evening commenced with a welcome by Naledi Mohale, the Chairperson of the Constitutional Committee. She reminded attendees of the significance of the occasion, pointing out that 2024 marked three decades since the advent of democracy in South Africa. Mohale underscored the importance of empowering youth to reclaim agency in shaping the future they will inherit.

She called on students to draw inspiration from past movements. “We need not look as far as the youth of 1976,” she said. “We need only to look down at the stairs of our very own Sarah Baartman [Hall] to the shadow of a statue that once was, to remember the youth that gave [birth to] movements such as #RhodesMustFall and #FeesMustFall.”

Seven parties represented

Hlamulo Khorommbi, the president of the Students’ Representative Council (SRC), also took to the stage. He expressed gratitude to partners such as the Royal Danish Embassy. Khorommbi highlighted South Africa’s ongoing struggles, and emphasised that these underscore the urgency for change and accountability.


“We need not look as far as the youth of 1976.”

The debate was moderated by Dr Rekgotsofetse Chikane, political commentator and lecturer at the School of Governance at the University of the Witwatersrand. He pointed out that the forthcoming elections feature both the largest number ever of new parties, and the largest number ever of parties contesting an election. “We have 27 million people who are registered for these elections,” Dr Chikane noted.

Speakers addressed a range of social justice issues. The main themes focused on the challenges facing South Africa's youth. Panellists proposed solutions to youth-related challenges, including education reform, job creation, addressing spatial apartheid, and combating gender-based violence.

The ANC’s representative, Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, pointed to the access that has been provided to students through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), as well as National Health Insurance (NHI), as examples of how the governing party has brought about change in society. He also referenced the strengthening of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) to deal with corruption. In addition, he argued that initiatives such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), internship programmes and the national minimum wage provide social security for young people.

Brett Herron of GOOD said that poverty, unemployment, inequality and the socio-economic conditions that give rise to gender-based violence (GBV) are all linked. “We would immediately introduce a basic income support, so that no adult is expected to live in South Africa without any income,” he said. He argued that a Basic Income Grant (BIG) would address the four interlinked issues he had mentioned.

UCT student governance structures and the Youth Advisory Panel of the Royal Danish Embassy hosted a political debate.

Young people in politics

Ayanda Allie of BOSA said that young people have always been at the forefront of change. “There can be no change in South Africa until and unless young people get up and do something,” she added. BOSA proposed the introduction of a voucher valued at R15 000 to allow parents to choose where to send their children to school.


“There can be no change in South Africa until and unless young people get up and do something.”

Baxolile Nodada, representing the DA, said: “The first thing that we need to do within the next five years is to reform labour laws in South Africa, so that young people are able to access a job.” He referred to weaknesses in NSFAS, and pointed out that while the way out of poverty is a university degree, poverty prevents access to higher education. He argued, therefore, that a system must be in place that allows those who can afford to pay to do so, but which will subsidise those in the middle and make education free for the poor.

The representative of Rise Mzansi, Axolile Notywala, said, “If we don’t prioritise undoing the injustice of the past, we are not going to be able to move anywhere.” Spatial apartheid has to be reversed, he said.

Angela Sobey of ActionSA gave up 30 seconds of her allotted speaking time when she asked those present to stand in silence “to pay tribute to the memory of Uyinene Mrwetyana.” She added that GBV is a scourge to society.

“We cannot be proud of who we are as a people if we are unable to deal with the question of land,” said Dr Wandile Kasibe of the EFF. He pointed out that the EFF believed in the principle of expropriation of land without compensation.

The discussion extended to international issues. One of the most impassioned moments arose during the discussion on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A member of the audience asked each panellist to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question, “Is Israel committing genocide?” Everyone replied ‘yes’, except for the representatives of the DA and BOSA.

Joel Stevens, a student at UCT, found the event a valuable opportunity to seek answers from political parties. "I care about international issues like what’s going on in the Congo and what’s happening in Palestine. So when I saw political parties here, I thought it was important to come and question and voice my concerns, not just as a student, but as an active participant in my community and South Africa".

The event concluded with closing remarks by Abicha Tshiamala, a member of the Youth Action Panel, urging attendees to translate dialogue into tangible action. Lusanele Kumkani Goqoza, the Student Governance Council Chairperson, delivered the vote of thanks.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.