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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

Childhood obesity should be curbed early
2017-03-15

Description: Child obesity Tags: Child obesity

Serious intervention by parents is required to deal
with childhood obesity. Prof Louise van den Berg and
a group of final-year PhD students worked on a study
about the prevalence of obesity in six-year-olds in
South Africa.
Photo: Supplied

If your child is overweight when they start school at the age of six, unless you do something about it at that point, the indications are they are going to be overweight teenagers and obese adults. This is according to University of the Free State’s Prof Louise van den Berg.

Evidence has shown that overweight children and teenagers have a greater risk of developing lifestyle diseases such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease later in life, and dying prematurely.

Obesity is a global pandemic rapidly spreading among adults and children, in developed and developing countries alike.

Dr Van den Berg worked with Keagan Di Ascenzo, Maryke Ferreira, Monja-Marie Kok, Anneke Lauwrens, all PhD students with the Department of Nutrition and Dietetics, to conduct the study. Their research found that children who are overweight by the time they turn six should be screened for weight problems.

Why six-year-olds?
Children who are overweight between the ages of two and five are five times more likely to be overweight when they are 12. There are two periods in a normal life cycle when the body makes new fat cells. The first is in the uterus and the second is around the age of six. The second phase lasts from the age of six to puberty.

The study assessed the prevalence of obesity in six-year-olds as part of a campaign in South Africa to raise awareness of the problem among parents and educators.

A total of 99 children were chosen from seven schools in Mangaung, the capital city of Free State. The schools were chosen from quintile four and five schools, which when measured by their own resources and economic circumstances, are well resourced and serve largely middle-class and wealthy communities.

The children’s weight, height and waist circumference were measured and used to calculate a body mass index score and waist-to-height ratio. Both these figures are good predictors for future lifestyle disease risks such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. A person with a good waist-to-height ratio can wrap a piece of string equal to their height around their waist at least twice.

When the children had a higher body mass index, they also had an increased waist to height ratio. The study found one in four children from the schools surveyed were overweight when they started primary school.

Nipping the fat in the bud
Although there are many factors that play a role in preventing childhood obesity, parents’ perceptions of their children’s weight play an important role. A recent study found that more than 50% of parents underestimate the weight of their obese children. These parents remain unaware of the risks their children face and are not motivated to take any action.

At least half of the parents whose children are overweight struggle to recognise their children’s weight problems fearing that they will be labelled or stigmatised. By the time they turn six overweight children should be referred to dieticians and nutritionists who are qualified to guide their parents in getting them to eat well and be more physically active at pre-primary and primary school.

The high prevalence of weight problems among six-year-olds found in this study is an urgent call to healthcare professionals to step up and empower parents, educators and children with the necessary skills for healthy dietary practices and adequate physical activity.

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