Pictured from left is Giuseppe Guerandi, the co-equity officer of Stellenbosch University’s debate union, Adam Ferguson and Sanele Dlamini. On the far right is Praise Chasela, the co-equity officer of Stellenbosch Debate Union.
(Published - 10 July 2020)
The gift of the gab – some have it, others don’t. There is no doubt that the University of the Western Cape (UWC’s) Debate Union has the gift.
And their record speaks for itself. One member – Thato Selema, a first-year B.Com Accounting student – was ranked among the top 20 best speakers at the international Uhuru Digital Debating Competition (UDDC), which had participants from 38 countries.
Another member and chairperson – Ano Zhou, a third-year LLB student – often receives requests to be an adjudicator locally and internationally.
And their latest feat? Victory at the Inaugural Stellenbosch Novice tournament recently.
UWC put on a stellar performance by not only winning this tournament, but team members walked away with performance-based awards.
The finale consisted of four teams; two of which were from UWC. Sanele Dlamini, a second-year Dietetics student and Adam Ferguson, a first-year law student, ultimately became the very first UWC debating team to win the tournament.
They admitted it had been challenging to fight the nerves, cope with the sweaty palms and rapid heart rate while having to stay on topic, speak slowly and clearly and, but most importantly, to listen and take notes.
Dlamini, who tried debating for two years at high school, said, “Some may think debating is meant mostly for people who study law, but being a dietetics student, I can advise anyone to try it. It just helps so much with critical thinking, gaining knowledge, and it helps you grow in confidence.”
Chief adjudicator, Lazola Nomkala, a second-year B.Com Law student, said: “Overall, the team played to their strengths. Adam is our more constructive speaker, and Sanele brings her keen critical analysis of topics to the table. This combination really worked well for us.”
She said the second UWC team – consisting of Marylyn Ndlela and Thomas Hartley – took second place, while the best tournament adjudicator award went to Nomkala herself.
“Overall, the debating union strives to create a safe space of open dialogue on important societal issues. The COVID-19 pandemic has unfortunately made attending tournaments more difficult because these days they are either postponed or suspended. But we are getting used to participating on a digital platform.
“I think hard work and determination from the team is what made this victory possible.
“In preparation for this tournament, they were at it twice a week on Mondays and Wednesdays. There were rigorous drills of analysing important concepts as well as exploring relevant content.
“The win was a clear product of preparation and the sheer will to overcome unfavourable odds by both the speakers and adjudicators.
“We haven’t lost momentum. Winning the Stellenbosch Novice tournament and becoming the first UWC team in history to do so, is enough cause for inspiring vigour and enthusiasm to keep us wanting to compete even more,” said Nomkala.
The next online tournament is the Jozi To-Accra Debate Championship which takes place from the 12 to 23 August 2020.