Day 1: South Africa in Context

Activity 2: The current political, social and economic context

Day 1: South Africa in Context

Activity 2: The current political, social and economic context

1 hour 15 minutes


To help us to: 

  • Begin to undertake a collective, critical analysis of the broad context characterising South Africa today
  • Begin to locate and critically understand the dynamics of our communities1, struggles and movements within this broader context.


Module 1 Framing Document as background overnight reading before Day 1 starts. 

Plenary: Debating our South African context 

First thinking: We’ll spark our day on context with a plenary session. This session picks up from the Framing Document that Fellows have read over a few evenings of the Orientation.  Use the Module 1 Framing Document to guide your approach to critical thinking. Ask those deeper questions as you think about the position you want to take on the statements / quotes. 

A set of flipchart size posters with the quotes / statements are posted up around the room. The statements are in no particular order: 

  • State capture has roots in colonialism and apartheid. The same webs of corruption are active in post-apartheid South Africa. 
  • Social movements, trade unions and civil society have become weaker, corrupt and bureaucratised. But they are so crucial to reverse the rot and reclaim democracy. 
  • Nothing in State of the Nation Address (SONA) 2022 signified that the president and his administration know how to win back the trust of the impoverished, who feel let down by them. 
  • The collapsing social fabric breeds extreme forms of violence against women and children, and was fertile ground for the July 2021 social unrest. 
  • South Africa is unequal, unstable and unsustainable
  • There has been real progress in improving the lives of South African women in the economy, in the political sphere and in public life. 
  • The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the sense of social solidarity in our society.
  • We still believe in the ability of the president to lead the country in the right direction. But it will not be easy. 

We’ll all gather in the middle of the room, forming a bus. When the facilitator reads out one of the quotes, each Fellow will hop off the bus and head to the bus stop that best reflects the extent to which the Fellow agrees or disagrees with the statement. Once everyone has found their bus stop, we’ll hear from some of those at each bus station why they view the statement in that way (5 minutes x 8 statements = 40 minutes plus 10 minutes for intro and settling in). After each statement’s quick discussion, we’ll move to the next statement. The bus stations are: 

Bus stop 1: The statement I agree with the most. 
Bus stop 2: The statement I disagree with the most. 
Bus stop 3: The statement that makes me think twice. 
Bus stop 4: The statement that makes me feel excited and positive about the current situation. 
Bus stop 5: The statement that makes me worried, anxious and uncomfortable about the current situation. 

Feel safe to have second thoughts: After the first round, we will pause for 2 or 3 minutes to allow Fellows to think and consider if they’re having any ‘second thoughts’ and want to change their minds if they have been persuaded by another Fellow’s way of seeing, or their own further thoughts. The facilitator will ensure that this is a safe space and a respectful space that allows considered thought and debate. Fellows can head over to another bus station at this point if they wish to. We’ll hear from those who have changed bus stop and what shifted their thinking on particular statements. (15 minutes) 

In plenary, the facilitation team will draw out what this session teaches us about characterizing the state of our country at any particular time and we’ll grapple with what influences and informs the positions we take; and the power of respectful debate. We’ll ask how women are affected in particular in any of these statements, and why we should worry about this question of women and others who are oppressed, exploited and marginalised as social groups. (10 minutes) 

NOTE 1: By “communities” or “community”, we do not necessarily only mean a physical community that is in one physical place such as a township or informal settlement or inner city. But it can also be associational or relational or even virtual: for example, the LGBTQIA+ can be a community, or a community of soccer players, or the “church community” or a community of practice, or a workplace community, and so on.