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Belgian professor visits SU to learn and share expertisehttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2594Belgian professor visits SU to learn and share expertiseLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>A professor from the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (KU Leuven) in Belgium recently spent two weeks at the Afrikaans and Dutch Department presenting talks on Sign Language Interpreting and Sign Language Linguistics. </p><p>During her visit, Prof Myriam Vermeerbergen also connected with colleagues interested in Sign Language Studies at the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.</p><p>Her visit forms part of a joint agreement which was signed in November 2014 in Antwerpen between the Faculty and the Faculty of Arts at KU Leuven. The agreement focuses on research and teaching in language practice (translation, interpreting, editing and language acquisition) and provides exchange opportunities for researchers as well as opportunities for research initiatives and research projects, and PhDs and joint post-doctoral fellowships. The agreement forms part of the preferential agreement between Stellenbosch University (SU) and KU Leuven.</p><p>Vermeerbergen is a sign linguist and a sign language interpreter trainer. She joined KU Leuven's Faculty of Arts (Antwerp campus) in 2008. At the time, the institution had a long-standing programme training interpreters and translators for spoken languages, however, it did not offer academic training for sign language interpreters. Vermeerbergen was therefore tasked with incorporating Flemish Sign Language into the Bachelor in Applied Language Studies and the Master in Interpreting programmes. </p><p>"As a sign language researcher I needed to broaden my expertise and to include sign language interpreting and training as part of my research focus," explains Vermeerbergen.</p><p>At SU, the Afrikaans and Dutch and the General Linguistics departments are currently investigating how to get involved in South African sign language teaching and research.  In 2015, the General Linguistics Department will introduce sign language linguistics in its second-year undergraduate module and will offer a short course in sign language linguistics to teachers of the deaf. The Department is also working towards instituting a South African Sign Language acquisition module. </p><p>"Vermeerbergen will co-present the short course in 2015 and is assisting the Department in selecting the most appropriate curriculum for the acquisition module," explains Dr Frenette Southwood from the Department. </p><p> "I am very excited about this development at Stellenbosch University and keen to find out what their plans are. This is why I applied for a two-week staff exchange,"  adds Vermeerbergen.</p><p>In May, Dr Harold Lesch from the Afrikaans and Dutch Department will be paying a reciprocal visited to KU Leuven to learn more about interpreter training at Vermeerbergen's department.</p><p>"The Department is of the opinion that we can also play a role with the emancipation of the Deaf community. We train interpreters for various language combinations but currently there is a shortcoming in the training of sign language interpreters. The aim is to make provision for sign language interpreting in our interpreting programme as well as research into sign language interpreting. This will lay the foundation also for further advanced postgraduate research," explains Lesch.</p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;">"</span><span style="line-height:1.6;">My visit to KU Leuven is to acquaint myself with the best practices regarding sign language interpreting training with the idea to duplicate it also in our interpreting programme, but also to look at various possibilities in which we can cooperate in the field of interpreting. The possibility of appointing Prof Vermeerbergen as a research fellow in our Department will also be negotiated during my stay."</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;">During Vermeerbergen's stay at SU, she did not only participate in a discussion on different forms of sign languages with Dr Hanelle Fourie Blair from the </span><em style="line-height:1.6;">Woordeboek van die Afrikaanse Taal</em><span style="line-height:1.6;">, but also taught a class for students in interpreting on the difference between sign language interpreting and spoken language interpreting. In addition, she gave a talk on the cross-linguistic comparison between spoken and signed languages.</span></p><p>This is, however, not her first visit to South Africa. In 1995, she was here on holiday and returned again in 2005 and 2006 as part of her involvement in a project with another Belgium research partner and the Department of South African Sign Language at the University of the Free State. The project was focused on comparing Flemish Sign Language and South African Sign Language as well as comparing the Deaf communities in both countries involved. </p><p>"One of the things that I learned during the span of that project is that in South Africa there are many deaf adults who did not acquire a sign language when they were young. This is because they did not go to a deaf school or did not have a deaf person in their environment who could teach them the language. Worldwide 95% to 98% of deaf children are born into hearing families. When these children are not brought into contact with a sign language and do not acquire a spoken language either, they simply have no fully developed language. They are often called "home signers", because they develop their own gestural communication system to be able to communicate with their families," explains Vermeerbergen. </p><p>She became intrigued by this form of communication, a type of gesturing, and applied for research funding to conduct a feasibility study on home sign research. In 2007, she was able to spend seven months in Bloemfontein to work on this project. During her research visit, Vermeerbergen soon learnt that it was not that easy to track deaf persons who use this type of communication, because they are often isolated and not known to the local Deaf community. Eventually, with the help of local police, she managed to find five home signers and recorded their form of communication on video.</p><p>"My aim was to try to understand how they communicate, what their home sign system looks like. This kind of communication system offers us an understanding of language genesis and development, how signs come into existence. You can even explore whether there is a form of grammar in these home sign systems and how universal that is," says an excited Vermeerbergen. </p><p>"Policy makers should realise that while South Africa is a multilingual country, which is wonderful, there are also people who do not even have one full language set. So what do you do when a person with minimal language skills goes to a police station for instance to report a crime? What if they are the victim of a crime and are asked to give testimony? It is therefore important to assess what kind of communication system they are using and figure out how to assist them in these instances."  </p><p>When speaking to Vermeerbergen, it is very apparent that she is passionate about her field of study. She is the co-founder and former President of the <em>Vlaams Gebarentaal Centrum </em>and a former board member of the international Sign Language Linguistic Society. She also serves on the Advisory Board on Flemish Sign Language and on the Expert Group on Sign Language and Deaf Studies of the World Federation of the Deaf. </p><p>"There are two very important misunderstandings about sign languages – one, that sign language is an universal, primitive means to communicate via gestures and pantomime, used by people who cannot acquire a "proper" language, and two, that it is a "sign for word translation" of a spoken language. Both ideas are not true. Research has shown us that sign languages are full, complex, independent languages, with their own lexicon and grammar.</p><p>"Studying sign languages is therefore important and has both scientific and societal relevance. For many deaf people, sign language (and sign language interpreting) is of vital importance in ensuring full access to society. In order to teach a sign language to deaf children and train professionals, for example teachers who work with deaf children and sign language interpreters, we have to know about that sign language and understand its linguistic structure and for this, research in this field is needed. If we are serious about giving sign languages their proper space, we must invest in research and in training for those who teach and/or learn it."<br><em></em><br><em>Photo: </em><em>Dr Harold Lesch and Prof Myriam Vermeerbergen during a lunch hour talk she participated in during her visit to SU. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)</em><em></em><br></p>
South Africa is in danger of becoming a radicalised society – againhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=3343South Africa is in danger of becoming a radicalised society – againDr Nicole de Jager<p>​​<strong style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">​​​​​Below follows the original article written by Dr Nicola de Jager and distributed to the media. To read the article that was published in The Conversation, </strong><a href="https://theconversation.com/south-africa-is-in-danger-of-becoming-a-radicalised-society-again-49257" style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#666666;background-color:#ffffff;"><strong>click​​​​ here​</strong></a><strong style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">. </strong></p><p><strong style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></strong><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">Over the last few months I have followed the activities taking place across South Africa and its university campuses, reflecting on its significance through my own research which focuses on the complexities of the South African political landscape. In the process, I have been struck by the similarities between what we are witnessing today and the 'mood' in the country in the 1940s, the results of which altered the course of South Africa for the worse.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">Ironically the period leading up to the 1948 elections held great potential for political and social reform, and the liberalising of a system historically characterised by segregation. There were indications that the incumbent United Party (UP) was moving towards a more reformist and inclusive approach, especially in terms of the black majority. This was reflected in the UP's Fagan Report and their candidate to replace Jan Smuts as leader, JH Hofmeyer, who was considered to have 'liberal tendencies'. The Fagan Report, which investigated black African migration into urban areas during World War II, rejected the concept of separate development and found that the flow of Africans to cities was irreversible and should be facilitated.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">Unfortunately, the National Party (NP), led by DF Malan, would use these indications of reform to appeal to white fears. In addition, the NP mobilised support amongst younger, more radical Afrikaners appealing to a nationalist sentiment which had taken hold within their ranks. This sentiment was driven by the stirring of deep-seated resentments and the continual reminder of historical injustices experienced by Afrikaners, particularly at the hands of the British during the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902). Approximately 28 000 Boer women and children died in British concentration camps during this time. These simmering resentments, combined with the 'poor white' problem – a significant portion of the white population were very poor – and the subsequent politicisation of these conditions by an ethnic-nationalist agenda would cast a long shadow over South Africa's politics.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">The </span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">NP</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">, with its slogan of 'Apartheid', narrowly won the 1948 elections against the incumbent UP. 1948 would become a triumph for a new and non-conciliatory generation of Afrikaner politicians.</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"> </span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">Instead of reform, South Africa embarked on a radical, nationalistic and racist trajectory, the scars of which remain in contemporary South Africa.</em></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">A pertinent dynamic, visible in South Africa's political landscape since the 1940s, has been a moving to the fore and then to the background of moderates, intermittently being replaced by what could arguably be called radicals or exclusivist nationalists. This dynamic has influenced and continues to influence South Africa's political and socio-economic prospects. Moderates recognise that in politics no one has a monopoly on truth or virtue while radicals or exclusivist nationalists pursue a form of nationalism that is driven primarily by a keen sense of distinctiveness and the desire to elevate it at the expense of others. Their strategies would include exclusionary policies, discrimination and even violence. Moderates realise that inherent in democracy is a core tension requiring significant maturity – that of balancing conflict and consensus. Also, they grasp that for  the sustainable future of a democracy, it is imperative that certain 'ingredients' come to the fore:</span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">moderation</em><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">, which recognises and accommodates differing political beliefs;</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"> </span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">pragmatism</em><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">, instead of a rigid ideological approach; a measure of institutional and social</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"> </span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">trust</em><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">; willingness to</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"> </span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">compromise</em><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">; and</span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"> </span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">civility</em><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">, which implies a respect for other views.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">The 1990s, unlike the 1940s, was a fortuitous time for SA with the rise of moderates and a negotiated transition. Negotiations between the NP and the ANC required both sides to moderate their viewpoints, compromise on their goals and adopt less parochial approaches, with credit due to the astute leadership of Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk. Both were committed to a negotiation process, were able to manage their respective constituencies, and establish a relationship of mutual trust.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">President de Klerk concluded that if there was to be any hope of future peace, it was imperative to engage with the ANC and to seek a political rather than military solution. Upon moving into office, he acted swiftly to dismantle the securocratic state that his predecessor had established. On 2 February 1990, he made a parliamentary speech unbanning political parties like the ANC and PAC. The speech's contents were a surprise to many including the media, those within the struggle and most within the NP caucus itself. Future President Mandela's story is similar. Late in 1985, after undergoing surgery, he was moved to isolated accommodation in Pollsmoor. He seized the opportunity: "I chose to tell no one what I was about to do…I knew that my colleagues upstairs would condemn my proposal, and that would kill my initiative even before it began". He requested a meeting with President PW Botha in July 1986 initiating the process of pre-negotiations. His initial attempts were not widely accepted, but he continued to pursue talks and became the key role player in leading the ANC in that direction. He would later be joined by Thabo Mbeki.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">The success of the negotiations process and later the constitutional drafting process would be dependent on whether all parties approached them in a spirit of 'good faith'. This placed an expectation on all involved to show a commitment to peace, to be open to compromise in the common interest, and then to regard all agreements reached, in particular the Constitution, as binding and irrevocable. Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa (2011) sums up the outcome: "Never again will the courts rubber stamp or stand helplessly by while unjust laws are made to take away people's rights…Now judges are the champions of the people, testing the actions of the legislatures and the executive against the fine standard we have set out ourselves in this Constitution."</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">In spite of such a promising start, South Africa's current democracy is characterised by ambivalence. Some are recognising an increasing fervour for racial nationalism in the ruling party's policies, service delivery protests which turn violent and the use of radicalism to express discontent. Furthermore, the high levels of unemployment and inequality provide a source of genuine grievances.</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">So much of what is happening harks back to a dark time in SA's history. The NP's radicalism and exclusive ethnic nationalism left a morally and economically bereft state. Today we stand at a similar crossroads. South Africans face the choice of being re-racialised and polarised; of closing our ears to genuine grievances and injustices; of using the methods not of compromise, accommodation and mutual respect, but of intolerance, radicalism and uncivility – all of which will obstruct our future democratic and socio-economic prospects. Faced with these choices, we would do well to heed the mistakes of the past. It is time to follow the route espoused by Chief Albert Luthuli: "the path of moderation".</span></p><p><span style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;"></span><em style="line-height:1.6;text-align:justify;font-family:'noto sans', helvetica, sans-serif;font-size:1em;color:#333333;background-color:#ffffff;">Dr Nicola de Jager is a senior lecturer in the Political Science Department at Stellenbosch University with a research focus on Southern African politics, South African politics, comparative politics and democracy.</em></p>
University establishes bursary for descendants of Die Vlaktehttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2520University establishes bursary for descendants of Die VlakteKorporatiewe Bemarking/ Corporate Marketing<p>​<span style="line-height:1.6;">A bursary fund for descendants of people who were forcibly removed from </span><em style="line-height:1.6;">Die Vlakte</em><span style="line-height:1.6;">, an area close to the town centre of Stellenbosch, in the 1960s, was established this week.</span></p><p>Prof Wim de Villiers, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, announced the bursary at his inauguration last week (29 April 2015) while the University's management met this week to determine the initial criteria.</p><p>"The bursary is in direct response to students calling for the creation of such a bursary. It also serves as a further sign of redress the University committed itself to at the turn of the century," Prof De Villiers said. "Last year, Stellenbosch University paid out R588 million in bursaries and loans to the 37% of our students in need of financial assistance. Of this amount, 55% went to black, coloured and Indian students based on merit and financial need."</p><p>Among others, academic faculties at the University, already earmarked nearly R350 000 for the bursary.</p><p>Criteria for the bursary fund are currently being finalised, but bursaries will be made available to undergraduate students for the normal duration of a degree programme up to the maximum of four years. Applicants who are no longer living in the Stellenbosch area but who can give proof of their parents or grandparents being affected by the evictions, will also be considered. Community leaders will also be requested to form part of the panel that will consider applications.</p><p>The bursary creates, apart from the existing recruitment bursaries available to coloured, black and Indian students, new opportunities to local residents to further their studies at the University.</p><ul><li>The public can also contribute to the bursary. Liaise with Lorenza George at tel 021 808 3090 or via e-mail at <a href="mailto:lcg29@sun.ac.za">lcg29@sun.ac.za</a> for more information.</li></ul><p> </p><p><strong>MORE INFORMATION ON DIE VLAKTE, THE UNIVERSITY'S MEMORY ROOM AND THE OLD</strong><strong> LÜCKHOFF SCHOOL</strong></p><p><em>Die Vlakte</em> was declared a white group area on 25 September 1964 in terms of the Group Areas Act of 1950. Besides the 3 700 coloured residents, six schools, four churches, a mosque, a cinema and 10 business enterprises were affected by the forced removals that followed. As an institution, the University did not protest against the evictions at the time and in general the university authorities went along with the government policy.</p><p>For decades, the removals from the <em>Die Vlakte</em>, and the Battle of Andringa Street (info below) were not part of the official history of Stellenbosch and were only placed on record with the publication of <em>In ons Bloed </em>(2006) and<em> Nog altyd hier gewees: Die storie van ʼn Stellenbosse gemeenskap</em> (2007) – publications on the history of the area and supported by the University.</p><p>In 2013, the University opened a Memory Room in the Wilcocks Building as a gesture of reconciliation between Stellenbosch University and the town's coloured community (<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gADDLUkkbWM&feature=youtu.be">video</a> here and <a href="/english/entities/archives/exhibitions">article</a>). The Room is a permanent contemporary exhibition space depicting the suppressed history of people of <em>Die Vlakte – </em>as the area in the Stellenbosch town centre demarcated by Muller Street, Ryneveld Street, Banghoek Road, Smuts Street, Merriman Avenue and Bird Street was known in the 20th century – and the Battle of Andringa Street.</p><p>The brainchild of the late Prof Russel Botman, the then Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, the Memory Room originated from the apology (<a href="http://bit.ly/TWLoLR">available here</a>) in 2012 offered by student leaders in Dagbreek men's residence for the role they played in the Battle of Andringa Street (when white students attacked Coloured residents of the adjacent Vlakte and damaged their residences in 1940) and the subsequent meeting between students and former residents of Andringa Street at Botman's house. "It's a place where we can reflect on the past, and hopefully learn to reconcile with one another. Reconciliation is born of memory and cannot happen if there is denial and amnesia," Prof Botman said at the time of the opening.</p><p>Forced removals from <em>Die Vlakte</em> under the Group Areas Act also resulted in the Lückhoff School in Banghoek Road being given to the University. The Lückhoff School has since been rededicated to the local community (in 2007) and houses various community organisations in addition to the University's Community Interaction division.  In 2008 and 2009 a permanent photo exhibition was installed in the building to give recognition to old boys and girls of the school who had become prominent role players in South African society.</p><p><em><strong>Photo</strong>: The late Prof Russel Botman, Rector and Vice-Chancellor of Stellenbosch University, with Mr John Abels and Mrs Sybil Kannemeyer, residents of Idas Valley, at the opening of the Memory Room in 2013. Photographer: Anton Jordaan.</em></p>
SU student and award-winning pianist Kyle Shepherd at Africa Open on 19 Septemberhttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5141SU student and award-winning pianist Kyle Shepherd at Africa Open on 19 SeptemberLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>On 19 September, the award-winning pianist and improviser Kyle Shepherd will give a public talk and performance as part of the IfPop Conversations series organised by the Interdisciplinary Forum for Popular Music of Africa Open at Stellenbosch University (SU).​<br></p><p>The IfPop is part of Africa Open, a new research institute for music, research and innovation in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at SU. </p><p>Shepherd, who is currently a Masters student at SU, will be in conversation with Dr Stephanie Vos of  Africa Open about about jazz practice as research, about developing an own artistic voice and the two figures that shaped Kyle's practice, Abdullah Ibrahim and Zim Ngqawana. <br></p><p>The talk and performance will be at the Gallery University Stellenbosch (GUS), from 18:00 to 20:00. <br></p><p>“The connections between music practice and research is a topic that academia takes increasingly seriously as it investigates alternative knowledge systems and how arts research might engage with non-written forms of knowledge production," says Vos, a jazz researcher and the project leader of the IfPop.<br></p><p>“In jazz research in particular, these conversations are important. Much of the knowledge about jazz are not found in academic sources, and musicians remain the main bearers of knowledge and history surrounding jazz practice. For this reason, studies like Kyle Shepherd's are particularly valuable." <br></p><p>Shepherd's performance and talk is the second event in the IfPop Conversations, a series of public talks aimed at public and academic audiences, and a platform for multiple disciplinary perspectives on popular music. <br></p><p>The event is free and open to the public. No booking is required.<br></p><p>For more information, visit Africa Open's <a href="https://www.facebook.com/Africa-Open-Institute-for-Music-Research-and-Innovation-235518686913310/">Facebook page</a>. <br></p><p><em>​</em><em>Photo: Kyle Shepherd during one of his concerts. (Photographer: Gregory Franz)​</em></p>
Method developed to measure online sentiments on #Democracy https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2236Method developed to measure online sentiments on #Democracy Lynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>There can be no denying that social media platforms are playing an increasing role in the political mobilisation of citizens and how they participate in democracy. </p><p>This was seen during the Arab Spring uprisings, the Occupy Wall Street movement, and more recently, following the attack on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo, in Paris. The French tragedy turned the #JeSuisCharlie hashtag into one of the most popular hashtags in Twitter's history and was central to the organisation of the largest street protest in Paris – more than 1.6 million people participated.<br> <br>"Digital social media, with Facebook, Twitter and YouTube as leading examples, have become major global channels of communication, with ramifications for established democracies and their social bases – some positive, others disruptive," explain Barend Lutz and Pierre du Toit from Stellenbosch University (SU).</p><p>The researchers, who worked together to develop  a method to measure public expressions of support for democracy on Twitter, recently released a book focused on social media platforms and how computational linguistics can make sense of this landscape. </p><p><em>Defining Democracy in a Digital Age: Political Support on Social Media </em>was published by Palgrave MacMillan and written by Lutz, a political/security risk analyst and digital media consultant, and Du Toit, a professor at the Political Science Department at SU. </p><p>"With the 'real world' influence of social media growing, it is crucial to listen to and understand what citizens globally are saying on these platforms as it provides a chance to define and look at how we measure the state of democracy in a new digital age."</p><p>According to Lutz and Du Toit, there has been concern amongst scholars across the world regarding the viability of democracy as a political governance system. This doubt is further entrenched through events such as the Global Financial Crisis in 2008 and the failure of democracy to expand to authoritarian countries globally.</p><p>"One of the ways that social media enhances democratic participation is through the connectivity of this technology. Individuals have near complete control over the content of statements published on the Internet. </p><p>"Up to now, there has been no effective way of converting the articulate mass self-expression by individuals on social media into coherent forms capable of influencing public policies," say Lutz and Du Toit. </p><p>Traditionally, survey data has been used to attempt to articulate mass sentiment on democracy, but this is a time consuming and expensive exercise. Their research attempts to create a complimentary methodology to expand on traditional survey data research.  </p><p>Lutz, who developed the methodology as part of a Masters' thesis on international relations and next-generation Internet, says he analysed more than 70 000 publically available Tweets over a three month period.  This was done via computer assisted computational analytics, sentiment analysis and natural language processing, which in this case refers to the automated collection and analysis of statements from Twitter.</p><p>"Social media has now effectively extended the public sphere into a global electronic platform, far removed from the city squares of the classic Greek democratic city-states. On social media platforms, issues are debated, questions of public import are deliberated on and people can call a spade a spade, so to speak."</p><p>Their research clearly shows how the spaces where democracy is usually played out, have changed and that this will require analysts of democracy to look at these new spaces differently.</p><p>"Democracy is something that takes place in groups. The idea of the nation was usually conveyed through newspapers – so people who read the same newspapers conceived of themselves as being part of a community. Social media is much more individualistic and the idea of a community or a sense of community from that part of the public sphere becomes nearly inconceivable. As we saw with the Arab Spring, you can draw people together for a protest through social media, but what happens afterwards when everyone returns to their individual lives?"</p><p>Lutz and Du Toit explain that the influence of social media and other forms of digital media is a double-edged sword. On the one hand these platforms could lead to people becoming more engaged when it comes to current issues and therefore stronger democratic citizens, or on the other hand people could get caught up in the entertainment of social media and thereby become less effective citizens.</p><p>"The methods of data analysis presented in this book can help the global citizenry to reimagine themselves as being part of new, more coherent units of democracy, able to pursue their ideals more effectively than has been the case to date," say the authors.  </p><p>* Du Toit and Lutz will be doing a talk on their research entitled <em>Defining Democracy in a Digital Age: Political Support on Social Media</em> on Wednesday, 4 March, at 18:00 in the MIH Media Lab in the Engineering Building.  For more details or to attend the event, contact <a href="mailto:bflutz@gmail.com">bflutz@gmail.com</a>. </p><p><em>Photo: P</em><em>rof Pierre du Toit (left, sitting) and Mr Barend Lutz from Stellenbosch University have developed a method to measure public expressions of support for democracy on Twitter and details this in their recently released book. (Anton Jordaan, SSFD)</em></p>
Arts’ student’s initiative leads to mentor programme for EDP first-yearshttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=2546Arts’ student’s initiative leads to mentor programme for EDP first-yearsLynne Rippenaar-Moses<p>The initiative taken by a senior student completing an extended degree programme (EDP) in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences has led to the development of a mentorship programme for first-year students following the same degree programme. </p><p>Thanks to Annika Bester, a final-year BA Humanities student majoring in sociology, first-year students who have to complete their degree over a longer period of time, will now have the added benefit of being mentored by senior EDP students. </p><p>The idea took root late in 2014 while Bester was in a meeting with her lecturer, Ms Shona Lombard, and Lombard mentioned that she was concerned that not more students were speaking to EDP staff about the challenges they faced. </p><p>Lombard suggested that Bester and a fellow EDP student attend a first-year tutorial session to share their experiences of being on the Programme with the first-years. </p><p>"At the end of the session, we gave our e-mail addresses to the students and when we checked our inboxes later that day, there was a flood of e-mails with queries about time management, how to deal with stress and how to set up a study timetable."</p><p>The feedback prompted Bester to speak to Lombard in 2015 and to offer to act as a mentor to anyone who needed it. However, Lombard took it a step further and suggested that they formalise the mentorship programme and get additional mentors to help out. </p><p>An e-mail was sent to the senior EDP students specifying that mentors were needed for a programme which was still in the development phase and for which there was no funding. If they decided to get involved, they would be volunteering their time and effort. </p><p>"Almost every senior student we approached agreed to participate and said they wished they had such a mentor when they were first-year EDP students," explains Lombard. </p><p>Following the positive sign-up, Lombard approached Dr Gillian Arendse, the Head: Mentor, Tutor and Leadership Development at Stellenbosch University, and asked him to help them establish such a programme. </p><p>"While the senior EDP students were eager to help, they needed to be trained to be able to be an effective mentor. Arendse developed and presented a training programme to the mentors, where after they were introduced to the mentees at an official event in April this year."</p><p>Now 23 mentors will provide academic and personal mentorship to 115 first-years in the Faculty. The first-years are divided into mentor groups in which the mentor is either studying the same BA programme or where the mentor has studied or is still studying the same subject(s) as his/her mentees. The mentors have four to six students each with whom they meet for one hour per week.  </p><p>Some of the other mentors who were introduced to the mentees on 13 April, included Phinny Kgaphola (completed a BA in Social Dynamics and is now following an Honours in Public and Development Management at the School of Public Leadership), Majaletje Mathume (a second-year BA in Development and Environment student) and Patience Jonas (a final-year BSocial Work student).</p><p>"I had a mentor in my residence," adds Jonas, "and I had a friend who was studying social work, but I felt dumb and uncomfortable to speak to them in my first-year and tell them I was on an EDP. So I would love to give a first-year some guidance and mentor them to deal with the situations I had to deal with and let them know that just because you're an EDP student, does not mean you are less worthy. I just want to give my mentees a boost in self-esteem and tell them that this is not the end of the world, that it is in fact a blessing, and that being on the Programme actually provides you with enough time to focus on your studies properly and make a success of it. " </p><p>Kgaphola says that the negative perception of EDP students is so pervasive, that the first-years they spoke to at the introductory event were surprised to meet "students who had served as primaria of residences or postgraduate students studying towards their honours degree".</p><p> "I had a friend who was doing her second-year at the time and asked me how I managed to always write such amazing essays," says Mathume. "She had no idea where to start so I helped her establish a framework for her essay and then referred her to my lecturer, Dr Taryn Bernard, who had taught us <em>Texts in the Humanities</em> as part of the EDP. So yes, it's nice to be part of the mainstream, because you can complete your degree in three years and you are like everybody else, but those students are also struggling just like everyone else."</p><p><em>Photo: Twenty-three senior EDP students were recently trained to act as mentors to a 115 first-year EDP students. Here are some of the mentors: In the front from the left are Annika Bester, Majaletje Mathume, Lelethu Booi, Jessica Herbert, Carryn Adams and Bradley Adonis. In the back from the left are </em><em> </em><em>Suzaan van Zyl, Dr </em><em> </em><em>Gillian Arendse, Phinny Kgaphola, Shona Lombard, Kirsey Stramisa and Aniska Nelson.</em><em> </em><em>(Anton Jordaan, SSFD)</em></p>
Has our Constitution reached its expiry date?https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=4895Has our Constitution reached its expiry date?Lynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">"Through the research conducted for our book we essentially investigated what the Constitution means to various stakeholders in South Africa and found that there were three threads of meaning – the one is tied to what the constitution represents to South Africans as a set of rules for a democracy, or also a peace accord; the other is tied to what it embodies – a constitutional contract, a social contract or an expedient through which to gain more power for the initial rulers; and the last one is tied to what it stands for, in other words, is it a set of rules with which to uphold the negotiated exchange of concessions and gains agreed upon on in 1996, a set of rules with which to build a national consensus, or rules through which the ruling party gain complete dominance," explains Prof Pierre du Toit from the Political Science Department at Stellenbosch University (SU) and one of the three co-authors of the book, <em>South Africa and the case for Renegotiating the Peace. </em></p><p style="text-align:justify;">The book was published by SUN Press.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Negotiations for South Africa's Constitution started in 1991 with the Conference for a Democratic South Africa (CODESA). After two years, CODESA was replaced by the Multi-Party Negotiating Forum (MPNF), which adopted the interim constitution in 1993. Following Nelson Mandela's inauguration as President in 1994, a Constitutional Assembly (CA) – Parliament today – would spend the next two years finalising the Constitutional Bill that was eventually passed on 11 October 1996 with an 85% majority. Two months later, the Bill was signed into law. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Yet despite a Constitution that is praised the world over and seen to be the legislative foundation of South Africa's democracy, there has been various indications that its foundations remain shaky due to various understandings of what the Constitution is, argues Du Toit and co-authors, Dr Charl Swart from the Centre for Research on Evaluation, Science and Technology (CREST), and Dr Salomé Teuteberg, from Taylor & Francis publishing. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Since 1994 there has been numerous examples of "ongoing discord about what the negotiated transition was about" and "what the negotiated outcome, in the form of the democratic constitution, stood for", write the three academics. These include statements printed in the <em>Sunday Times</em> in 1998 and attributed to Kgalema Motlanthe, the then Secretary General of the ANC.  Motlanthe was quoted as saying that should the ruling party gain a two-third majority in the 1999 election, it "would review the constitutional constraints posed by independent watchdogs such as the Auditor General, the Public Protector and Attorney General" to allow the party to govern "unfettered by constraints". While these statements were later retracted, increased calls to pursue the objectives of the ANC's National Democratic Revolution (NDR) in 2009 saw an uptake in public debates around the purpose of the Constitution. The NDR is a post-apartheid, SACP-generated plan for South Africa consisting of two phases – the transition of political power to the liberation movement followed by measures to gain full control over the economy and preferably move from a more capitalist to socialist system.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">In 2011, former President FW de Klerk entered the fray, accusing the ANC's NDR of "seeking to disturb the constitutional balance".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"It became clear and is still clear, that there is a huge difference of opinion on the meaning of the Constitution," says Du Toit. "The debate has now moved to focus more directly on the nature of these negotiated constitutional compromises, on their status and on whether they were core defining aspects of the Constitution, and therefore more or less inviolate, or whether they were merely adjuncts, to be easily discarded. The most obvious current example would be the land question, which centres on the property clause (section 25 of the Bill of Rights)."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">These exact sentiments were also conveyed in 2011 in an article by Advocate Ngoako Ramathlodi, a former member of the ANC's National Executive Committee (NEC) who described the concessions made by the party as "fatal" and the Constitution as a "great compromise" which largely favoured white domination.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">A year later, former ANC Policy Chief, Jeff Radebe would echo Ramathlodi: "Our first transition embodies a framework and national consensus that may have been appropriate for political emancipation, a political transition, but has proven inadequate and inappropriate for our social and economic transformation phase." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Since then, and at times of various crises within land reform, and the education and mining sectors, there has been calls for a new CODESA. These utterances, argues Du Toit, Swart and Teuteberg, while normal for secure, consolidated democracies, are however problematic for "newly democratised, unconsolidated, post-conflict societies".</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"In South Africa, the stakes are very high and rival interpretations of constitutional rules carry implications for policy making that have ramifications for the way in which society and the economy are ordered. Implementing one policy option derived from one particular interpretation of a constitutional rule over another may also carry greater risks of policy failure, with severe costs being incurred, to be borne by citizens.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We therefore argue in our book that the current unhappiness over policy issues in South Africa, actually has its origin in what was a flawed negotiation process from the outset and that the 85% majority vote of 1996 obscured the divergent interpretations of what the document stood for, represented and embodied for the various parties that participated in the negotiations. The result was that South Africa, from the very start of its democracy, lacked a national consensus on how to go about consolidating democracy, and on how to develop society and the economy." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Based on research conducted by academics Zachary Elkins, Tom Ginsberg and James Melton for their 2009 book, <em>The Endurance of National Constitutions, </em>the median life spans of constitutions were determined to be 19 years on average. The disillusionment that many may feel regarding the country's Constitution is therefore not surprising. The trio determined the life span of constitutions by comparing every democratic constitution in the world, safe for Great Britain, from 1789 to 2005 and by looking at 935 distinct constitutional systems implemented in more than 200 national states. They found that of the 935 constitutions, 746 had been replaced over the years while 189 were still in existence in 2005. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Authors Du Toit, Swart and Teuteberg argue that we can also learn from some notable examples of renegotiation, especially in Malaysia and Lebanon. Over time, says Du Toit, these examples show how longstanding discord over how various stakeholders understand their constitution can lead to chronic policy failure and an eventual national crisis. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"We already see signs of a crisis emerging here, and also how opinion leaders respond. In late 2016, for example, at the height of the state capture crisis, the Nelson Mandela Foundation issued a press statement calling for 'a national convention of stakeholders to begin to reimagine South Africa's future beyond the unsustainable stresses of the moment'."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">When crisis conditions become unbearable for the ruling elites and other stakeholders, the authors<span style="text-decoration:line-through;"> </span>hope that the road would have been paved for a renegotiation of the meaning of the Constitution rather than a complete overhaul of the Constitution. "This is not a call for a new CODESA, instead it is a call for a process to salvage the very democracy we negotiated in the first place in 1996."  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"The renegotiation of constitutions has taken place in countries like Lebanon, Zimbabwe and Malaysia, but only under conditions of extreme crisis. We may still be able to get away from perceiving what is currently happening in South Africa as a crisis. This is because the elite can still, for example, escape inadequate schooling systems and education in the country by sending their children to private schools," explains Du Toit. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"But, when we reach real conditions of crisis, the same stakeholders who negotiated our Constitution may have to consider returning to the negotiating table to handle the crisis. We do not believe that the Constitution as a whole should ideally be on the agenda, but rather that we should use that opportunity to recalibrate our peace negotiations and reconsider what our Constitution stands for."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">However, says Du Toit, for this to happen, it is important to start public discussions about a renegotiation of the Constitution and to make it part of the public debate now. This, he says, is not any different to the climate that allowed for the current Constitution to be negotiated in the first place. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">"It's similar to when, in 1978, David Welsh and Frederik Van Zyl Slabbert wrote a book with the title <em>South Africa's Options: Strategies for Sharing Power</em>. They were the ones who for the first time in an academic sense put the case for negotiating a constitution from the apartheid state into the public sphere. Nothing happened at that point, but in 1990, the whole world shifted and the politics of negotiation started. They introduced the concept of the political negotiation to South Africa, so that by the time 1990 rolled around, there was an awareness at various levels that it can be done and that we can reconfigure and re-adapt to what is necessary at the time. That time may arrive for us soon again." </p><p>Those interested in purchasing the book,<em> </em><em>South Africa and the Case for Renegotiating the Peace</em>, can do so by contacting <a href="mailto:orders@africansunmedia.co.za">orders@africansunmedia.co.za</a> or by visiting SUN Press' online platform at <a href="http://www.sun-e-shop.co.za/">www.sun-e-shop.co.za</a>. <br></p>
International conference draws world’s leading gender scholars https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5064International conference draws world’s leading gender scholars Lynne Rippenaar-Moses<p style="text-align:justify;">A number of high profile academics from across the world specialising in gender politics are at Stellenbosch University (SU) this week to participate in a conference on <em>Gender, Politics and the State. </em>The conference is hosted by the Research Committee 07 (Women and Politics in the Global South) of the International Political Science Association and the university's SARChI Chair in Gender Politics from 8-10 August. The conference will take place at STIAS in Stellenbosch and coincides with Women's Day in South Africa too.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“It is the first time that the RC07 conference is held on South African soil," says Prof Amanda Gouws who is the Chair of RC07 and a Political Science professor that specialises in gender politics in the Political Science Department. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">She also holds the SARChI Chair in Gender Politics.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">“This conference is very important because it brings together women from developing countries, or what is known in academic circles as the Global South, to talk about issues that are important to them.  Very often their voices are drowned out at conferences in the Global North [developed countries]."</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The conference will involve participants from Africa, Asia and Latin America.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The three keynote speakers at the conference are Prof Josephine Ahikire, an Associate Professor and Dean in the School of Women and Gender Studies at Makerere University in Uganda; Prof Gabeba Baderoon, an Extraordinary Professor in the English Department at SU and Associate Professor of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality and African Studies in the Department of Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University  in the United States; and Prof Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a leading literary theorist and feminist critic from Colombia University. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“Prof Spivak, who is hosted by the Stellenbosch University Business School, will also be participating in the RC07 conference in collaboration with the Business School, where she will speak on the Vanishing Present at the Global University, a topic she will introduce for further discussion by Prof Vasti Roodt of the Philosophy Department at Stellenbosch University and Ms Lovelyn Nwadeyi, a social justice activist and former student at our university too. This is a topic of utmost importance because of the influence of neoliberal capitalism on universities worldwide, which has led to universities being managed like corporations and has affected the academic project negatively." </p><p style="text-align:justify;">According to Gouws, Ahikire's talk “On the Shifting Gender of the State in Africa" – a presentation about challenges, victories and reversals of women's struggles for gender equality in Africa – will be of particular interest for delegates, especially those from South Africa. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We are now witnessing how new forms of authoritarian leadership and corruption have reversed hard won gains women have made through activism and advocacy over a long period of time.  This is also very topical for South Africa that has a 50% quota for women in government, yet policies made by government fall far short of ensuring gender equality in this country." </p><p>The papers presented at the conference will focus on women's activism and women's movements highlighting contemporary issues that  have been in the public eye such as gender-based violence, including rape culture on campuses and gender attitudes within government institutions; women's role in peace processes across the globe; the representation of women in religious, political and national government institutions; identity politics; migration; state responses to harmful cultural practices affecting women – something that many South African women will be able to relate to; women and policy making; and women's empowerment.</p><p>On Women's Day, which is celebrated on 9 August, Baderoon, who is a feted South African poet, will deliver a keynote address on the “World of Black Women's Writing in South Africa".  In the afternoon a Pakistani film titled “The Girl in the River" will be shown at the Pulp cinema in the Neelsie to highlight the problem of harmful cultural practices.<br></p>
Departments in Arts Faculty and others collaborate for Women’s Day concerthttps://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5142Departments in Arts Faculty and others collaborate for Women’s Day concertFiona Grayer<p style="text-align:justify;">​​The Music Department in partnership with Stellenbosch University's (SU) Transformation Office, the Visual Arts Department and the Women's Forum presented a concert in celebration of Women's Day in August in the Endler Hall in Stellenbosch. The SU Jazz Band took centre stage under the direction of Felicia Lesch joined by South African jazz legend Gloria Bosman and jazz singer and poet Mihi-Tuwi Matshingana.<br><br>The evening was specifically dedicated to honouring the memory of Charlotte Mannya Maxeke – the first black South African woman to obtain tertiary education and who graduated in the USA in 1901. Her mantra, “When you rise, lift someone up with you", is a maxim that artists Felicia Lesch, Bosman and Matshingana all embrace.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">Lesch is passionate about music as a vehicle for social change and formed the SU Jazz Band as one of the ensembles of the Certificate Programme. The Certificate Programme is the pre-undergraduate programme of the SU Music Department which was created to empower students with skills to embark on a BMus or Diploma programme at tertiary level. </p><p style="text-align:justify;">Matshingana completed a BCom degree at SU in 2014, during which time she also studied in the Music Department's Certificate Programme, a programme to which she paid homage on stage. She is currently a third-year Jazz Studies student at Wits University in Johannesburg.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">South African author and journalist Zubeida Jaffer's third book “<em>Beauty of the heart</em>", which is a tribute to Maxeke and also provides fresh information on her life, was available for purchase at the event. Jewellery from an jewellery exhibition by Kutlwano Cele, a student in the Visual Arts Department, was also on sale.</p><p style="text-align:justify;">The SRC and many students from other departments and faculties supported the concert.  </p><p style="text-align:justify;">“For some this was their first “Endler experience", which made it a particularly joyful event," said Monica du Toit of the Transformation Office.<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">Special guests from within the Arts Faculty, the Women's Forum, the Gender Equality Unit, SU Museum, SU Transformation Office and community partners of the Music Department's own Certificate Programme also attended the Woman's Day Celebration Concert. <br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“The event was a moment of institutional belonging and connection with new people at our institution."<br></p><p style="text-align:justify;">“We look forward to more meaningful collaborations in the future and honour the women (and men) on stage who are using music as a vehicle to liberate, educate, rage and dream," added Du Toit.​​<br></p>
Quo Vadis democracy? https://www.sun.ac.za/english/Lists/news/DispForm.aspx?ID=5145Quo Vadis democracy? Corporate Communication / Korporatiewe Kommunikasie<p>In 1994, South Africans welcomed democracy with open arms. But today this embrace doesn't seem to be as tight as we would like it to be. <br></p><p>“It appears that we aren't quite so sure what to make of our democracy," says Dr Cindy Steenekamp, a Senior Lecturer in the Department of Political Science at Stellenbosch University.</p><p>In a recent study, Steenekamp, for the first time, mapped the characteristics of a democracy community in South Africa by looking at people's commitment to democratic values, and their support for the country's democratic regime and political authorities. Her research question related specifically to the persistence of democracy and how this has been impacted by the political attitudes and behaviour of South Africans since 1994.</p><p>The findings of Steenekamp's study was published in the <em>Taiwan Journal of Democracy</em>.</p><p>She analysed data from the last four waves of the World Values Survey (WVS) conducted in South Africa between 1995 and 2013 to measure the level of political culture in the country, the support for the democratic regime and the political process, as well as the level of institutional trust in political parties, government, and parliament. The WVS is a valuable worldwide network of social scientists studying changing values and their impact on social and political life over time. During each of the four periods, face-to-face interviews were held with representative samples of adult South Africans in urban and rural areas in their preferred language. </p><p>Steenekamp says the analysis of this data revealed that while there is support for democratic rule and the current political system, support for authoritarianism has increased and confidence in government institutions has decreased.</p><p>“On the one hand, support for democratic rule is fairly high, despite a sharp decline between 2006 and 2013, and higher than support for authoritarian rule. Support for the current political system is steadily increasing." </p><p>“At the same time, however, support for authoritarianism has more than doubled since 1995 and is nearing the 50 percent threshold and confidence in governmental institutions is decreasing and, in 2013, dropped below 50 percent for the first time since transition."</p><p>“The fact that the gap between support for democratic rule and authoritarian rule has narrowed from 71.3 percent in 1995 to 25.2 percent in 2013, does not bode well for the persistence of a democratic community in South Africa."</p><p>Steenekamp<strong> </strong>adds that confidence in various governmental institutions, such as political parties, parliament, and the government, decreased by more than 20 percent between 1995 and 2013.</p><p>She also notes that data showed a decline in South Africans' positive attitude toward law-abidingness, despite the fact that they generally condemn unconventional forms of political behaviour such as protest action and the use of force to gain political goods.</p><p>Steenekamp says there could be different reasons for these contradictory results.</p><p>“One could argue that commitment to democracy has not become fully entrenched in our value system as a result of the socio-economic reality that plagues the country. Although the black middle class has grown since 1994, the challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality remain."</p><p>“Despite the provision of basic infrastructure and social welfare, the majority of South</p><p>Africans are yet to substantially improve their living standards."</p><p>“Also the changing nature of party politics, especially within the ANC, and rampant political corruption are likely responsible for South Africans' loss of confidence in the state and political leaders. The increase in unconventional political behaviour (i.e., protest action, in response to poor service delivery) is a direct result of citizen dissatisfaction with the state."</p><p>According to Steenekamp, the levels of discontent and civil disobedience could become the dominant political resource used by the people to mobilize public opinion and influence policy makers. </p><p>“Protest action has a negative effect on the persistence of a democratic community and culture once it becomes violent." </p><p>She adds that we should not forget that, unlike an authoritarian regime, a democratic government like ours needs the support of its citizens to maintain its legitimacy.</p><p>Steenekamp highlights the importance of a political culture that is conducive to democracy and says “democratic institutions alone will not keep our democracy stable and effective."</p><p><strong><em>Reference</em></strong><em>: </em>Steenekamp, C (2013). Democratic Political Community in South Africa Elusive or Not? <em>Taiwan Journal of Democracy</em>. Volume 13, No. 1, July 2017.</p><p><strong>FOR MEDIA ENQUIRIES ONLY</strong></p><p>Dr Cindy Steenekamp </p><p>Department of Political Science</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Tel: 021 808 2115</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:cindylee@sun.ac.za">cindylee@sun.ac.za</a> </p><p><strong>              </strong><strong>OR</strong></p><p>Martin Viljoen<br></p><p>Manager: Media</p><p>Corporate Communication</p><p>Stellenbosch University</p><p>Tel: 021 808 4921</p><p>E-mail: <a href="mailto:viljoenm@sun.ac.za">viljoenm@sun.ac.za</a><br></p><p><br></p>