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24 May 2019 | Story Eloise Calitz | Photo Charl Devenish
Gangster book Discussion
From left: Jacques van Wyk from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) Cathy Dlodlo, news editor from OFM; Pieter Roux from the UFS Business School; Alta Vermeulen from the UFS Department of Political Studies and Governance and Pieter-Louis Myburgh, author

A packed Odeion Auditorium at the University of the Free State was welcomed by Professor Helena van Zyl, Head of the UFS Business School. The reason being, a panel discussion with award-winning investigative reporter and author, Pieter-Louis Myburgh, on his much-publicised book Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule's Web of Capture. The programme took the form of a panel discussion. The panellists included Pieter-Louis Myburgh, author; Jacques van Wyk from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE); Cathy Dlodlo, news editor from OFM; Alta Vermeulen from the UFS Department of Political Studies and Governance; and Pieter Roux from the UFS Business School.

In his introduction, Myburgh said he was happy that he was able to come to Bloemfontein and have the discussion, since South Africans should cherish freedom of speech and a free press.

The research for the book took 13 months to conclude, and during this time he spent a lot of time in the Free State and Bloemfontein. He mentioned that the book gave him the opportunity to present a condensed account of what he discovered; he could therefore share more, as opposed to just reporting on a story in the newspaper. For him, investigative reporting should always be fact based and open to scrutiny.

Some of the topics raised by the panel was concern about the perception that investigative journalists are focusing more on corruption in the public sector and less on the private sector. This was, however, discarded as a myth, as Myburgh pointed out that he exposed both private and public sector dealings in order to provide the full scope of involved parties.

Focusing on whistle blowers, the panel challenged the verification of whistle-blower information. Myburgh responded that journalists never use only one whistle-blower’s evidence, since that is merely the start of the investigation. Further investigation was necessary, and facts had to be verified. With that said, there is still a lot to be done with regard to the protection of whistle-blowers, he concluded.

The floor was opened to the audience, which provided the opportunity to ask questions and raise concerns about what was mentioned during the panel discussion. The audience eagerly participated in the discussion. In conclusion, Myburgh reiterated that society plays a vital role in keeping those in power to the promises they make.

After the discussion, the audience had the opportunity to have their books signed by the author.

News Archive

Visiting Professor, Piet Bracke, Speaks on Public Mental Health
2015-02-20

Piet Bracke

Professor in the Department of Sociology at the Ghent University in Belgium, Piet Bracke, recently visited the UFS to speak about his research on the Public mental health and comparative health research: between social theory and psychiatric epidemiology.

At the public lecture on Monday 16 February, Bracke stated that part of the sociological attention to mental health and well-being was rooted in the 19th century's romanticists' discontent with self and society. The classical and contemporary social theorists' views on the disconnection between culture and the ‘real’ self resembles the more recent evolutionary psychological assumptions about the maladaptation of  psychobiological mechanisms to contemporary societal arrangements.

In contrast to these perspectives, contemporary psychiatric epidemiological research has a strongly underdeveloped conception about the nexus between society and population mental health. Both perspectives, the social-theory-and-societal-discontent approach and the biomedical psychiatric epidemiological approach, have drawbacks. Starting from the pitfalls of the aforementioned perspectives, they have been exploring the challenges posed by the development of a macro-sociology of population mental health.

Recently, this research domain has received renewed attention of scholars inside as well as outside sociology. The rise of multi-country, multilevel datasets containing health-related information, as well as the growing attention on the fundamental social causes of health and illness, and the focus on population as opposed to individual health, has contributed to the revival of comparative public mental health research. Based on findings from their recent research, they have illustrated how taking the context into account is vital when exploring the social roots of mental health and illness. In addition, they have demonstrated how they can liberate a few so-called ‘control variables’ in risk factor epidemiology – e.g. gender, education, and age – from their suppressed status by linking them to core concepts of sociology. With their research, they hope to further the development of a macro-sociology of public mental health.

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