“Battleground Gauteng”: Will the debate and elections be free and fair?

 The announcement this week by two of South Africa’s biggest weekend reads, City Press and its sister paper, Rapport that they would be co-hosting a pre-election political debate on April 16 “that goes beyond the superficial electioneering to ask public servants why we should vote for them” .makes an interesting read itself and sets the tone for an equally crucial event less than a month before the all-important elections on May 8.

Based on the differing views South Africans have about their reporting style towards different political parties in the country, the decision by the two papers to organise such a debate has generally been welcome by traditional readers of the newspapers.
Editors of the two newspapers, Mondi Makhanya and Waldimar Pelser who would facilitate the discussions said the debate, which recognised that Gauteng was likely to be the most hotly contested province, had invited those major parties contesting for dominance and seats in the provincial legislature to “come and make their case”.
 Supporters of the parties including ANC, DA, IFP, EFF and FF+ were also invited to join what the editors referred to as the “Battleground Gauteng” – “The chiefs and the Kingmakers “ where all send senior representatives of the parties would “answer voter questions and tell us why we should give them our vote”.  
On his part, Makhanya has also recognised that because of its status as the economic engine of South Africa and “political and intellectual trendsetters” status, “Gauteng is the most important. Hence “the Gauteng battle  is going to be the most enthralling  and gripping one in this 2019 general election’.  Pelser argues, “For the first time since 1994, control of Gauteng may slip from the ANC’s grasp, a risk of which the party was aware as early as 2014. Against this background, the opposition claim they can push the ANC to under 50%”.
 “We believe the public can benefit from hearing exactly where the five parties represented in the Gauteng legislature stand on key election issues, from the economy to land and the NHI.
“On 16 April, questions on all the key election issues will be put to candidates for premier as well as leaders from smaller parties that may end up deciding who becomes premier. We hope this will make a meaningful contribution to informing voters and to holding the politicians who say they can lead to account.”
We therefore believe that the debate will be an interesting test of what lies ahead for the upcoming elections. We expect that the arguments will be intense and brutal as a lot would be at stake. However, while we naturally believe that the co-hosts would, based on their experience and expertise and all those who would be in charge of the proceedings, make a good and fair job of the debate which is expected to attract a lot of interest. Naturally, they are not be expected to be part of the actual debate or take active part in what could lead to lengthy arguments while delaying the proceedings.
It will be interesting to see whether the debate would be free and fair and that all those taking part in the debate while representing their parties would be tolerant with each other and contribute meaningfully to the proceedings without making remarks which would lead to confrontations and expose what South Africans saw happen at Hout Bay in Cape Town last week and making a mockery out of the event.
We hope that the debate as a free and fair event ahead of the voting, would set the tone for the 2019 general elections.