15 June 2024 | Story Dr Nitha Ramnath

The University of the Free State (UFS) is pleased to announce the upcoming UFS Thought-Leader panel discussion titled “Navigating a new era of democracy in South Africa”. This event is a key part of the 2024 Thought-Leader Series and is presented in collaboration with the Free State Literature Festival. As a prominent public South African higher-education institution, UFS acknowledges its responsibility to contribute to meaningful public discourse. This panel will bring together esteemed thought leaders to discuss the social, political, economic, and business landscape of South Africa, exploring its implications for our future. The discussion will be facilitated by Prof Francis Petersen, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of UFS. 

Event details: 

Date: Thursday 4 July 2024
Time: 10:00-12:00
Venue:  ATKV Albert Wessels Auditorium, Bloemfontein Campus
Click here to RSVP by 3 July 2024

For further information, please contact Alicia Pienaar at pienaaran1@ufs.ac.za. 

Panel discussion presented on 4 July 2024

The 2024 South African elections saw the African National Congress (ANC) fall short of a majority, leading to significant questions about the country’s direction. The way forward is not clear-cut. What is evident is that the people have spoken. The upcoming panel will address the critical need for effective leadership and stable governance to serve the people’s interests. Key topics include political and ideological tolerance necessary for building trust and advancing democracy.

Panel facilitator: 

Prof Francis Petersen: Vice-Chancellor and Principal, UFS


Ebrahim Fakir: Consultant Election Analyst, Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA)

Prof Erwin Schwella: Director, Centre for Good Governance in Africa  School of Social Innovation, Hugenote Kollege

Sanet Solomon: Lecturer, Department of Political Sciences, College of Human Science, University of South Africa

Gert Coetzee: Former Editor, Volksblad




Speakers’ biographies:


Ebrahim Fakir

Ebrahim Fakir has over 25 years of experience in the political and governance sectors, spanning NGOs, academia, media, government, and business. Currently, he serves as a Consultant Election Analyst at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA). Fakir has a rich background in governance, having headed EISA’s Governance Institutions and Processes Program from 2009 to 2016. He has contributed extensively to academic and policy journals and is a frequent commentator in the media. His previous roles include Senior Researcher at the Centre for Policy Studies and Analyst at the Institute for Democracy in South Africa. He has also served in the first democratic Parliament of the Republic of South Africa in the Legislation and Oversight Division.  He serves on the Board of Directors of Afesis, a development NGO based in Buffalo City, East London, and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Council for the Advancement of South Africa’s Constitution (CASAC).

Prof Erwin Schwella

Prof Erwin Schwella is a distinguished academic, consultant, and leader in governance and public administration. He holds five degrees from Stellenbosch University, including a PhD on the Role of the Media in Public Accountability in South Africa. Schwella has held numerous prestigious positions, including Emeritus Dean of the School of Social Innovation at Hugenote Kollege and Affiliated Full Professor in the Department of Public Administration and Management at the University of the Free State. He has served as a visiting scholar at world-renowned universities such as Harvard and Leiden and has consulted for various governments worldwide. He is currently a Fellow of the International Leadership Association and an Emeritus Full Professor with Ius Promovendi at Tilburg Law School. With over 90 publications, Schwella is a leading expert in governance and public leadership.

Sanet Solomon

Sanet Solomon, a highly accomplished scholar in Political Sciences, is a lecturer at the University of South Africa and a PhD candidate at the University of the Free State. She has earned numerous academic accolades, including membership in the International Golden Key Honour Society. An internationally published author, her research focuses on Africa and the Middle East, with recent publications including a Springer Nature book chapter on the climate-security nexus in Mali. Solomon is also an active member of several academic organisations, contributing to her field through teaching, research, and service. 

Gert Coetzee

Gert Coetzee, former editor of Volksblad, embarked on his career in journalism in 1986 at Volksblad. He has served in various roles including Bloemfontein (several terms), Kimberley, (Northern Cape editorial bureau chief, 1996 to 1998), London (Media24 correspondent, 2001), and in parliament in Cape Town (political correspondent, 2004 to 2008). In 2008, he was Media24’s Rykie van Reenen Fellow at Stellenbosch University’s School of Journalism. From July 2014 to June 2015, he acted as Volksblad editor and subsequently retired at the end of 2022. He still contributes columns and articles to Netwerk24 and the remaining Afrikaans newspapers. Coetzee’s career has spanned many roles including general news reporter, in-depth reporter, political writer, op-ed writer, columnist, feature writer, news manager, ombudsman, and manager of change. He has covered state visits of former presidents FW de Klerk and Thabo Mbeki, reported on the regime change in the 1990s, and various elections from 1994 to 2020. He holds BA, BA Honours (English), and MA cum laude (Creative Writing) degrees, as well as an HED from the University of the Free State. He is the recipient of several journalism awards.


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