Justin du Toit, a research intern with DEVELOPMENT WORKS, attended the Fit to Govern seminar and shares his experience:
FIT TO GOVERN: THE NATIVE INTELLIGENCE OF THABO MBEKI
Chair: Adekeye Adebajo, Speaker: Ronald Suresh Roberts, Discussant: Sipho Seepe
The dialogue offered a space in which views could be debated and corrected and not merely criticised as the media seems to do. This is especially important with writing that is meant to be factual, the electotrate have the right to question what is written in press or book and correct the so called facts that are put forward. Authors in the media and in books should thus not be taken as authorities but electorates must not take for granted what these writers say. Electorates must be wary of propaganda in the information space. Like all dialogues, this one also showed that there is still room for space to debate (and not just scoring points or settling scores). All can engage intellectually without giving the impression that some are more sophisticated than others, there is no voice banning
The issue which stuck out in the seminar and which led to quite a lengthy disussion, was President Mbeki’s statement which questioned the relationship between the HIV-virus and the AIDS disease. Ronald in his response to the discussion stated that, to debate anything is to create confusion. Hence, he referred to the electorate as a range of confusable subjects. So the question begs, Should we, as South African citizens not debate issues and remain slaves to the hegemonic view? However, what was highlighted as specualtive in the seminar on the whole HIV/AIDS debate is whether Mbeki explicitly denied that HIV causes AIDS. Mr. Seepe posed the question as to Why could the President not be clear on the issue (AIDS) as he was on other issues? He goes on to state that Mbeki is not definitive in his answer with regard to the HIV/AIDS debate. Mbeki does not affirm nor deny, and there is no-one, including the ministers who have a definite yes or no answer.
In addition, Ronald stated that, at the moment, by not refusing or accepting the damage has been done. In addition he stated that, the HIV/AIDS issue will be Mbeki’s Achilles heal. It is extremely important for a figure like Mbeki to be clear on issues, such as, the HIV/AIDS debate because people will on the basis of what he says, as he is seen as an authority figure within South Africa. Hence, people who are less educated will act on the basis of what he says.
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