08 June 2021 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath

As a public higher-education institution in South Africa with a responsibility to contribute to public discourse, the University of the Free State (UFS) will be presenting the webinar as part of the Free State Literature Festival’s online initiative, VrySpraak-digitaal. The aim of the webinar series is to discuss issues facing South Africa by engaging experts at the university and in South Africa. Some of the topics for 2021 include, among others, reimagining universities for student success; corruption; local elections, the state of business – particularly in the Free State.

In 2020, the webinar series saw the successful participation of leading experts engaging on COVID-19 and the crisis facing the country socially, economically, and politically. This year, in lieu of the Free State Arts Festival, the UFS will present the webinar virtually over a period of five months.

Third webinar presented on 29 June 2021

South African local government has often been the target of protests due to poor service delivery. This either suggests that local government is not capable of carrying out technical tasks, or that constituents are not being heard by the representatives they elected.  Without capable and ethical politicians, the best institutions and policies in a country will serve no purpose if they are not protected. Institutions run the risk of being ineffective and not reaching their full potential in an environment without an ethical framework and the required human capabilities. South Africa suffers severe capability deficiencies due to poor political management that requires fixing at a political level.  

Will the forthcoming local government elections be the solution to much-needed change OR will electoral reform – a somewhat far-fetched ideal – provide the platform for ultimate change?

Date: Tuesday, 29 June 2021
Topic:  South African politics and the local government elections: scene setter for a capable state?
Time: 12:30-14:00
RSVP: Alicia Pienaar, pienaaran1@ufs.ac.za by 26 June 2021


Prof Francis Petersen
Rector and Vice-Chancellor, UFS


Dr Ferial Haffajee
Associate Editor
Daily Maverick

• Prof Susan Booysen
Director of Research
Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA)

Mr Ebrahim Fakir
Director of Programmes
Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute (ASRI)

Prof Sethulego Matebesi
Associate Professor and Academic Head of the Department of Sociology
University of the Free State

Bios of speakers:

Dr Ferial Haffajee

Ferial Haffajee is a South African editor and journalist. She is currently associate editor at the Daily Maverick. Previously, Ferial was editor-in-chief at the Mail & Guardian and City Press, where teams working with her won numerous investigative journalism awards.  She is a regular analyst and commentator on radio, television, and elsewhere. Ferial is a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network and a member of the African Leadership Institute.   She serves on the board of the Open Society Programme on Independent Journalism. She has won numerous awards for journalism and for her support of media freedom, including an International Press Freedom Hero award from the Committee to Protect Journalists in 2015 and the Naspers Phil Weber award in 2013 – the global company’s highest internal honour.   Previously, Ferial was chairperson of the South African National Editors’ Forum and chairperson of the CNN/MultiChoice African Journalist of the Year Awards. She has served on the boards of the World Editors Forum and the Global Editors Network. She published a best-selling book called What if there were no whites in South Africa, and in 2017 she was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of the Free State for her journalism.

Prof Susan Booysen

Prof Susan Booysen is a political scientist, author, and analyst of South African politics. She is also Director of Research at the Mapungubwe Institute for Strategic Reflection (MISTRA), emeritus professor at the University of the Witwatersrand, and visiting professor at the Wits School of Governance.

Booysen’s third book in her Wits University Press trilogy of research-driven books on the African National Congress of South Africa, Precarious Power: Compliance and discontent under Ramaphosa’s ANC, was published in March 2021. The first two parts of the set were The African National Congress and the Regeneration of Political Power (2011) and Dominance and Decline: The ANC in the Time of Zuma (2015). Precarious Power (http://witspress.co.za/catalogue/precarious-power/) is available from South African bookshops and digitally from online stores such as Amazon’s Kindle Store and Barnes & Noble.

Booysen also edited a range of books on South and Southern African politics. Her latest edited volume for the Mapungubwe Institute is Marriages of Inconvenience: Coalition politics in South Africa (July 2021). Her previous edited books are FeesMustFall: Student Revolt, Decolonisation and Governance in South Africa (WUP, 2016) and Local Elections in South Africa: People, parties, politics (SUN Press, 2012). She co-edited Democracy and Elections in Southern Africa (2009) with Denis Kadima.

Mr Ebrahim Fakir

Ebrahim Fakir is currently Director of Programmes at the Auwal Socio-Economic Research Institute (ASRI). He was awarded the 2014 Ruth First Fellowship at the University of the Witwatersrand and was a part-time lecturer in the WITS School of Governance in 2018.  Until October 2016, he was head of the Political Parties and Parliamentary Programme in the Electoral Institute (EISA) [2009-2016], where he edited and published the Election Update focusing on the analysis of SA elections. He was an editorial adviser to the independent start-up media house Daily Vox and regularly contributes analysis, opinion and comment articles to POLITY, the Mail & Guardian, Sunday Times, News 24, and Business Day, among others.

Formerly a senior researcher and analyst in the Centre for Policy Studies in Johannesburg (2003-2009), he worked in both the Pretoria and Cape Town offices of the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (IDASA – 1998-2003), and also in the Legislation and Oversight Division of the first democratic Parliament of the Republic of South Africa (1996-1998). Before that, he was a tutor in English Literature at the then University of Durban-Westville (1994-1996), writing for the popular press as well as for academic and policy journals on politics, development, and the state.

He read for a degree in English Literature at the University of the Witwatersrand, where he was elected to the Student Representative Council. He was a visiting fellow at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Sussex (2006) and a Draper Hills Summer Fellow at the Centre on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University in 2011.

Prof Sethulego Matebesi

Sethulego Matebesi is Associate Professor and Academic Head of the Department of Sociology at the University of the Free State. Matebesi’s primary research interest is social movements, community development, and mining-company-community relations. He is particularly interested in understanding the role of trust in community protests at municipal level and the conflict between mining companies and mining communities in South Africa. His recent publications include two monographs – Social licensing and mining in South Africa (2020), and Civil strife against local governance: Dynamics of community protests in South Africa (2017).

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