FIFTEEN minutes was the time the Wits Debating Union had to prepare their argument in a debate.

Fourth year accounting student, Tlhalefo Mphuthi, led the team to victory in the South African National University Debating Championships three weeks ago. They went head to head in the English Second Language final with teams from the universities of Johannesburg, Namibia and Free State.

“It’s good to be a champion. After four years of debating, this was the culmination of my debating career,” Mphuti said.

The championship, held at the University of Pretoria from July 9-15, follows the British parliamentary style of debating with nine
preliminary rounds followed by octo, quarter and semi finals, and finishes with one winning round.

 In each debate are four teams with two debaters in each. Topics are given to the teams by officials and teams are not at liberty to choose what stance they take in the debate.

Mphuthi described the last round of the competition as challenging for the Witsies as their team had to begin the debate and present their arguments first.

Their topic in the final was ‘This house (Wits) believes that state-sponsored cyber attacks are an act of war’. They won by an unanimous decision from the adjudicators, chief of whom was a debater from Oxford University.

Jamie Mighti, another member of the Wits team, said by participating in debating “you learn how to argue for the other side [which you may not agree with personally]”.

“A serious debater knows not to attach themselves to the debate. It gives you skills… you understand where other people are coming from.”

Mphuthi said the key to a good debate “boils down to good strategy, good content and good style”.

The WDU will participate in the Pan African Universities Debating Championships in Zimbabwe followed by the World Championships in the Philippines, both in December.