24 August 2021 | Story Rulanzen Martin | Photo Flickr (GovernmentZA)
Minister Lindiwe Zulu said the ethos of social sciences should serve as a blueprint for academics to foster a better understanding of social development.

While most of the discussion about the recent violent protests and looting focuses on the political impact and economic ramifications, a group of social science academics met with the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, for a virtual colloquium on 18 August 2021 to assess the entrenched societal ills that preceded these acts of violence. 

During the colloquium hosted jointly by the Department of Social Work at the University of the Free State (UFS) and the Zola Skweyiya African Social Policy Innovation (ZSASPI) at the University of Cape Town (UCT), there were tangible engagements and presentations on how to deliver implementable solutions that social scientists could utilise when attempting to address the notion of violence during protests in South Africa. Some of the solutions are based on active citizenship – getting communities to contribute to the national development agenda, and an understanding of the provisioned right to protest and the responsibilities thereof. 

Other speakers included Dr Mpumelelo Ncube, Academic Head of the Department of Social Work at the UFS; Prof Chitja Twala, Vice-Dean, UFS Faculty of the Humanities; and Prof Ndangwa Noyoo, Director of the Zola Skweyiya African Social Policy Innovation. The panel also featured Dr Motlalepula Nathane-Taulela from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), Dr Grey Magaiza, Lecturer in Sociology at the UFS, and Dr Thabisa Matsea from the University of Venda (Univen). Presentations ranged from the right to protest with responsibility, active citizenry, political intolerance and inequality, unemployment, and poverty.

Social Sciences best to deal with underlying issues
In her keynote address, the Minister of Social Development, Lindiwe Zulu, stressed that social scientists are the best equipped to address social development issues. “We need to understand the deeper state of the people, and the humanities and social sciences should redefine their role,” she said.

In the wake of the looting and riots in July 2021, it is important for the Ministry of Social Development to understand and to look deeper into the impact and effect that COVID-19 had on the psyche of people in South Africa. Minister Zulu said her department wants to intensify the psychosocial support to communities and that she hoped the colloquium would look for “African solutions for our unique African problem”.  

She also cautioned that many youngsters were involved in these violent protests and reminded the youth about their role within the broader society – “to be educated in order to prepare, lead, and build a prosperous South Africa and African continent”.   

     Watch a recording of colloquium here:       

Colloquium much-needed space for critical discussion 

“This is the kind of platform we need to use in order to inform but also to try and guide our communities in terms of our research findings,” Prof Twala said in his opening remarks.  Dr Ncube reiterated Prof Twala’s sentiment by saying, “As academics, we had to ask ourselves what the role of social workers is in the broader society and what could be the role of social sciences in addressing these questions of violence in protest, using our intellectual muscle to bring about tangible change.”   

Protesting comes with inherent responsibility 

Section 17 of the Constitution of South Africa makes provision for protesting, but with these rights, there are also some responsibilities on the part of the protesting community. “This right has gotten backlash – particularly from academia – on how the protest culture has turned violent,” Dr Ncube said.  He also said that South Africa has been dubbed the world capital of protest, because in “some cases we had a protest every second day”. 

This colloquium served as an inaugural step in facilitating important discussions on a national level. 

Listen to a recording of the colloquium here

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.