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​UJ student debate team crowned Southern African Debate champions

Contributor: Ruth Madlazi 

A team of University of Johannesburg (UJ) students, called the UJ Debate Union, was crowned champions of the 2018 Southern African Universities Debate Championships (SANUDC) oration in Durban in July. The judging panel unanimously placed UJ, out of a total 149 teams and about 60 adjudicators, in first place after a great showing in the many phases of rigorous dialogues over ten days.

The debate competition consists of two categories of speakers – English as a First Language (EFL) and English as a Second Language (ESL) debaters. These categories were introduced due to the realisation that private and public schooling systems do not provide the same resources for debaters in their formative high school years. In fact, most public schools do not even have a debate team. This means that university debaters have varying levels of experience and were exposed to differing levels of quality in terms of debate culture. To make the competition fair, it was decided by the council that ESL and EFL speakers need to be separated after the preliminary rounds into quarter finals until the finals. This means that each year, there will be a champion each category.

Hosted by the Durban University of Technology (DUT), the 2018 SANUDCs, featured debatoting teams from universities from South Africa, Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

This was the first UJ team to be crowned champions of this debate competition.

President of the DUT Debating Society and a contestant of the One Day Leader 2017 season convened the sessions. The total headcount was said to be 546 participants, making it the most attended Championships this year. The UJ Debating Union was well represented, with a total of 21 delegates, 15 funded by the Department of Politics and International relations and 6 delegates self-funding. This means that UJ 7 teams and 7 adjudicators participating.

List of UJ teams:

  • Ruth Madlazi and Webster Morrison (ESL)
  • Thina Buyeye and Luyolo Kambi (ESL)
  • Thapelo Khambule and Rethabile Maboko (ESL)
  • Mpho Maphosa and Khumo Magane (ESL)
  • Neo Masoeu and Tumelo Bore (EFL)
  • Neo Kgaphola and Phathutshedzo Nthulane (EFL)
  • Bella Mkhabela and Luyanda Mazwi (EFL)

List of Adjudicators:

  • Zenani Mhlungu
  • Lerhumusa Mdhluli
  • Linda Maqutu
  • Fadzai Mutare
  • Tshidiso Nyamathe
  • Thando Gwatyu
  • Atanasio Dai

Webster Morrison and Ruth Madlazi collected the most points in the ESL category during preliminary rounds and broke first to the Octo final. They proceeded to the finals in which they were crowned champions on a unanimous decision. They were also secured at first place as the best ESL speakers and received a R2000 prize on the spot.


The UJ Debate Union team members exploring the city of Durban during the debate tournament.

Bella Mkhabela and Luyanda Mazwi came 18th to the EFL partial quarter finals. Neo Masoeu and Tumelo Bore were placed 12th to the EFL partial quarter finals, Khumo Magane and Mpho Maphosa taking part in the ESL Octo final, and Neo Kgaphola and Phathutshedzo Nthulane came at 6th position in the EFL semi-final. Thapelo Khambule and Rethabile Maboko were at position 5 to the ESL Octo final. The UJ Debate Union also had three adjudicators – Zenani Mhlungu, Lethumusa Mdluli and Fadzai Mutare.

"Without the support from the Department of Politics and International Relations, we would not have reached all these milestones. We would like to thank Professor Alex Broadbent for funding us for the tournament. We are also grateful to Ms Rae Israel, Professors Suzie Graham and Professor Chris Landsberg, Mr Nezo Sobekwa and the team for always availing themselves to assist us. We have a renewed commitment to grow the union and to keep working hard to train and produce quality speakers and adjudicators," says Ms Ruth Madlazi, 2018/19 Chairperson: UJ Debate Union.

The goal of SANUDC is two-fold: to promote integration within the Southern African students who represent the youth in different countries, and to promote a culture of debate in universities. The tournament takes place in July while most universities within the region are on the winter recess.