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​Say what? Big Accent Debate gives food for thought
Author: Ilse Arendse & Pia Nanny
Published: 02/10/2014

"Perceptions will always exist, but it is up to us to break negative peceptions and to respect each other," outspoken news personality and 567 CapeTalk breakfast show presenter, Kieno Kammies, said on Wednesday (1 October) during the Big Matie Accent Debate held on the Rooiplein at Stellenbosch University (SU). 

The debate - with the theme, "Pronunciation, Perceptions and Power" - was presented in collaboration with the University of Stellenbosch Debating Society. It formed part of SU's Diversity celebrations from 29 September to 3 October. 

Kammies told the audience that it's time that we embrace the fact that we're different. "We live in a diverse South Africa and we should embrace the fact that we do not all sound the same." He said that in any society a particular accent will carry more social currency and that's why it is so important to first talk to each other in order to get to know one another. 

"People will call you all sorts of things and there's nothing you can do about it, but what you can do is engage in conversation with them, to show them who you are and what value you bring to society," he added.

He urged SU to tackle issues that are deemed uncomfortable and to continue with these type of discussions once Diversity Week is over. "Sometimes we need to say it as it is, but in the correct tone in order to stimulate debate. The only way you are going to sort out your issues here at Stellenbosch University is to talk to each other, discussions need to be out in the open." 

The debate also had some audience members hot under the collar, judging by some of their comments: "People are always diplomatic at Stellenbosch University. We should stop beating about the bush"; "Why are we putting the white accent above the black or coloured accent?"; "I cringe sometimes when I speak to someone who struggles with pronunciation or grammar"; "People have specific ideas about what black people should sound like"; "Just because I sound 'white' doesn't mean I'm not black". 

Neil du Toit, Chairperson of the Debating Society, said Wednesday's conversation was long overdue. The consensus was that people should not judge each other based on accents and the stereotypes associated with certain accents.

  • Want to add your voice to the Big Accent Debate? Blog about it on and win. A new Diversity Week blog competition titled, 'Say what?', asks the question: "Should we speak to fit in, or stick to our traditional accent?" The Big Matie Accent Debate has been loaded on Bonfiire as a podcast (click here to listen). The competition closes on 16 October 2014. Click here to read the entries, or to take part.

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Wednesday evening's Glocal Food Evening, hosted by the Postgraduate and International Office (PGIO), was a huge success. There was a festive atmosphere on the Rooiplein where people could try dishes from countries such as Botswana, China, Ethiopia, Germany, France, Hong Kong, India, Kenya, the Netherlands, Rwanda and Zimbabwe. Those who weren’t feeling very adventurous could buy boerewors rolls at the South African stall. The mopani worms at the Zimbabwe stall were quite popular. 

Rudo Mateswa, a third-year BA International Studies student from Zimbabwe said that people’s reaction as they ate the worms were quite funny. “First they’re really scared because they think: ‘I’m eating a worm, I’m eating a worm!’ But most of them like it.” She said their baobab yogurt was also very popular. “I’m enjoying sharing my culture with other people,” she added. 

There were all kinds of interesting things to eat, such as lemon pie and ratatouille (France), spätzle and red wine cake (Germany), sorghum and tripe (Botswana) and injera (Ethiopia). ​

Today on the Diversity Week menu is the Blind Laduma from 13:00 to 14:00, where blindfolded participants will take part in a penalty shootout on the lawn next to the Rooiplein. From 18:00 to 21:00 the Desmond and the Tutus and Crazy White Boy will be mixing it up as part of the Neelsie Jam. ​And be sure not to miss out on the iBead Bracelets, SRC 'Selfie' Booth; LLL 'Lost Sock' Project; Graffiti Tables; and Campus Quiz between 11:00 and 14:00 on the Rooiplein.​ ​ ​ ​

  • See for more information about the Diversity Week activities.