By Marianne Thamm
The sartorial choices, racial make-up and seating positions of a panel of political representatives from the ANC, the DA and the EFF who participated in a pre-election debate on the continuing role of civil society in Cape Town on Wednesday reflected more than just the issue at hand.
The debate was chaired by Shielagh Gastrow, founder of Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement, a philanthropic organisation which provides support for South African civil society through a range of research, consultancy, mentorship and other programmes.
The racial demographics, too, of the panel reflected the peculiar diversity of the Western Cape - a white man representing the ANC with two black men (well, the Department of Labour as well as Jimmy Manyi might say ‘coloured’) speaking on behalf of the DA and the EFF.
In the final standoff, though, it was clear that experience and a firm grasp of policy, governance and the legislated role of civil society in our young democracy trumped repeat-button sloganeering, rhetoric and the generalisations of the newcomer on the political block.