Lively debate, student style

2009-03-26 00:00

STUDENTS and provincial party representatives were given a chance to defend their parties' manifestoes yesterday during a lively but disciplined debate hosted by the University of KZN's Student Leadership Development unit.

There was applause from among an audience of about 80 for the ANC Youth League's provincial chairman, Mxolisi Kaunda, who said his party is preparing to govern again and criticised the opposition parties for their failure to provide significant alternatives to ANC policies.

"Do we really have opposition groups or do we have interest groups?" he said to rowdy applause. Later, he deftly side-stepped a question concerning the price-tag on the parties' various election promises. "This question is irrelevant for the ANC," he said, "because we don't make promises, only commitments."

But the other parties weren't taking the ANC's confidence lying down. When Young Communist League deputy secretary Mfika Mndebe told the audience that the ANC had inherited an impoverished system in "Bantu education", Independent Democrats councillor Ntokozo Ngwenya didn't hold her punches:

"It's 2009 and you are still talking apartheid?" she said. "Things went wrong when your government decided to close the teacher training colleges. The ANC must not mislead the people. The problem is not money either; it's jobs for pals. The ANC has given positions to people who are ill equipped to do their jobs."

The IFP's Glenn Cele also gave a feisty performance, arguing that the country is "morally lost" and calling for discipline to be returned to schools with parents assuming more responsibility for their children's upbringing. She said the IFP wants to outlaw abortion on demand for young teens and wants to improve the fight against crime by encouraging more community involvement. "And by that, I don't mean stoning", she said.

The DA's deputy leader for KZN, Sizwe Mchunu, said the DA's success in running the city of Cape Town showcased the party's capacity to govern. "We match words with deeds," he said.

The ACDP's KZN leader, Wayne Thring, said his party would replace outcomes-based education with values-based education and would make Aids a notifiable disease. "We need a clear unambiguous statement on HIV/Aids. We say abstain, be faithful and Christ is the answer."

At the close, Marie Odendaal of the student leadership development unit praised participants for providing "more substance than rhetoric" and for giving the audience food for thought. "It's one of the most disciplined political debates I've ever heard, and it wasn't dull," she said.

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