08 August 2018
Prominent voices on prevalent discourse from the UFS
Prof Philippe Burger, Dr Sethulego Matebesi, Dr Chitja Twala, and Dr Ina Gouws use their expertise to dissect key aspects of local and international current affairs.

Over the years, the University of the Free State (UFS) has become a credible source of political commentary. Academics such as Prof Philippe Burger, Dr Sethulego Matebesi, Dr Chitja Twala, and Dr Ina Gouws have been identified by the media as the go-to experts for well-founded analyses in their respective disciplines.

Prof Burger’s road to analysis

“I am a trained economist so when you talk about the economics of the country, you refer to political issues as they are relevant with respect to the economy. And I work particularly with policies, which means that I have to get my hands dirty in the outside world. I’m not just limited to economic theory. I believe there needs to be a close relationship between the academic theory part of one’s work and the real practical and political world,” said Prof Burger, Acting Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences.

The media’s role in Dr Matebesi’s career

Dr Matebesi’s research concentrates on community protests, local, provincial and participatory governance as well as mining-community conflict. The Sociology lecturer was introduced to political analysis and social commentary in 2006 when he was involved in a project about urban community protests “Based on that study I was approached by the City Press newspaper for a brief article. Thereafter, I received several invitations from radio stations, newspapers, and SABC television for interviews,” Dr Matebesi said.

From studying numbers to historian

“I became a historian by default,” said Dr Twala, the Head of the Department of History, who as a high school pupil struggled with mathematics and so he switched to history. He then proceeded to pursue his undergraduate studies, honours, master’s, and PhD in History. In January 2003 Dr Twala was appointed as a lecturer at the UFS where he began to specialise in Liberation History with the ANC as a focal point. He has extensive publications in this field.
Going beyond academics

“Availability was the starting point   particularly with Radio Sonder Grense,” Dr Gouws said. “It would seem that they always seek new voices and new perspectives, and not all academics, especially in politics, are open to that sort of exposure.” Moving forward, the Political Studies and Governance lecturer aims to shift her research focus to the vilification of civil society by the democratic government.

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