Fostering critical dialogue and debate on socio-political and economic issues

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Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust
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Television series

Go to list of episodes and panellists

Television is a powerful medium through which to reach a very wide audience. In 2004, the Harold Wolpe Memorial Trust put forward a proposal to the SABC for a television series that would tackle some of South Africa's most pressing socio-political issues.

The Roundtable was born - a 13-part series hosted by John Perlman - probably best known in his role as talk show host on SAfm radio.

The series aired on SABC 3 between January and April 2005. Each week, four panellists, drawn from different sectors and holding wide-ranging views, debated challenging questions around poverty and inequality, black economic empowerment, morality and HIV/Aids, and transformation in sport, amongst others.

The Wolpe Trust conceptualised the topics, commissioned the background research, and co-sponsored the production of the series.

Copies of individual episodes or the whole series are available for purchase from the SABC.

The following provides a snapshot of the 13 debates and the panellists.

Episode 1: Closing the gap

  • We have seen economic improvements, but millions have not benefited. Why?
  • Is the free market economy the solution or the problem?
  • Do we need more government intervention or less?

Sampie Terreblanche (University of Stellenbosch), Jabu Moleketi (Deputy Minister of Finance), Nico Cyzpionka (Economic and corporate finance analyst), Phillip Dexter (South African Communist Part)

Episode 2: Land reform in South Africa

  • Can land reform help to reduce poverty and inequality?
  • Can new farmers succeed without government subsidy and support?
  • Could land reform put our national food supply at risk?

Andile Mngxitama (National Land Committee), Ben Cousins (Programme for Land & Agrarian Studies), Laurie Bosman (Agri-SA), Leon Louw (Freemarket Foundation)

Episode 3: South Africa in Africa

  • Is South Africa's economic expansion beneficial, or are we becoming the 'Yankees of Africa'?
  • Will NEPAD bring benefits to everyone, or just the strong?
  • Will doing business in Africa boost our own economy?

Darlene Miller (Rhodes University), Dot Keet (Alternative Information Development Centre), Shadrack Gutto (University of South Africa), Stanley Subramoney (NEPAD Business Foundation)

Episode 4: Equity versus excellence in sport

  • Are we levelling the playing fields in South African sport?
  • Are we paying the price for concentrating on elite and money-spinning sports?
  • Would promoting sport for all boost our standing in global competition?

Ntambi Ravele (Netball South Africa), Mark Keohane (Independent sports analyst), Michael van Roodt (The Future Factory), Reverend Makhenkesi Stofile (Minister of Sport & Recreation)

Episode 5: Black economic empowerment

  • Is black economic empowerment enriching only a few?
  • What does broad-based black economic empowerment actually entail?
  • Is BEE undermining economic growth?

Zwelinzima Vavi, (COSATU), Kennedy Bungane (Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals), Leslie Maasdorp (Batho Bonke Capital), Duma Gqubule (Independent economist and analyst)

Episode 6: Environment and development

  • Can a country battling poverty afford the luxury of putting the environment first?
  • Will ignoring the environment eventually undermine economic growth?
  • Do we have the capacity and vision to balance these concerns?

Tasneem Essop (Western Cape Minister of Environmental Affairs & Development Planning), Dr Christo Marais (Working for Water Programme), Cathy Kay (Independent environmentalist), Michael Rubin (Golf Estate Developers' Forum)

Episode 7: Social security

  • Would a more comprehensive social wage make a sustainable impact on poverty?
  • Is there a trade-off between social security and economic growth?
  • Is social security becoming unaffordable?

Ravi Naidoo (National Labour & Economic Development Institute), Pumi Yeni (Basic Income Grant Coalition), Lawrie Schlemmer (Helen Suzman Foundation), Kuben Naidoo (Budget Office, National Treasury)

Episode 8: Women in the economy

  • Has government policy helped to empower women economically since 1994?
  • Is the global free market creating economic opportunities for women, or making them more vulnerable?
  • Will growing the informal economy help to reduce women's poverty?

Mohau Pheko (Gender and Trade Network in Africa), Sabina Khoza (Fair Deal Training Centre), Mummy Jafta (COSATU), Pat Horn (Streetnet International)

Episode 9: Job creation

  • Do government's economic policies help or hinder the creation of jobs?
  • Has South African business done enough to create jobs?
  • Could we end up creating jobs that still leave people desperately poor?

Tony Leon (Democratic Alliance), Charles Maisel (Men on the Side of the Road Project), Ebrahim Patel (SACTWU), Haroon Bhorat (Development Policy Research Unit)

Episode 10: Higher education

  • Is what our universities are teaching relevant to South Africa now?
  • Should universities concentrate mainly on skills that the labour market needs?
  • What's more important: training people to "do" or to "think"?

Saleem Badat (Council on Higher Education), Francis Petersen (Mintek), Ivor Blumenthal (Services Sectoral Education & Training Authority), Nthabiseng Ogude (Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University)

Episode 11: Violence against women and children

  • Do traditional and religious values encourage or prevent gender-based violence?
  • Has the quest for gender equality fuelled violence against women?
  • Have socio-economic changes in our society set men and women at odds?

Reverend Bafana Khumalo (Commission on Gender Equality), Elaine Salo (African Gender Institute), Cheryllyn Dudley (African Christian Democratic Party), Patekile Holomisa (Congress of Traditional Leaders of South Africa)

Episode 12: Morality and HIV/Aids

  • If condoms can save lives, should morality come into it?
  • Should people have to disclose their HIV status in the face of prejudice?
  • Is it moral to provide antiretrovirals when not everyone can benefit?

Cardinal Wilfred Napier (Catholic Church), Fatima Hassan (AIDS Law Project/Treatment Action Campaign), Richard Yell (HIV+ inspirational speaker and writer), Takalani Dube (Doctors For Life)

Episode 13: Critical thinking and debate for democracy

  • Which serves our democracy better: consensus or debate?
  • Do we have too many sacred cows in our society?
  • How can we ensure that critical thinking becomes a force for change?

Zackie Achmat (Treatment Action Campaign), Judith February (Institute for Democracy in South Africa), Ferial Haffejee (Mail & Guardian), Murphy Morobe (The Presidency)

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