South Africa has overtaken Brazil as the most unequal society in the world, according to BBC Africa.

Against this background, the BBC Africa Debate focused on the question “Does black and white still matter in the rainbow nation?” at a recording of the monthly show, this time at the Wits Chalsty Centre last Friday, August 31.

Wits students Este Meerkotter (19) and Palesa Phora (19) were joined by matric students Rorisang Moseli (17) from and Mitchell Black (17) on the panel of discussants. Meerkotter is studying psychology while Phora is a student in law and international relations. The panelists relied on their personal experiences as scholars and students to add value to the debate on race and equality.

Wits student Este Meerkotter speaks at the BBC Africa Debate. Pic: Wits Vuvuzela

Meerkotter said she saw Wits University as a “colour blind” institution because of the prevalent racial variety. She however felt that race was brought into issues that were not racial, but rather cultural differences.

Phora said she did not think people were being racist if they stuck with people of the same race as themselves. “People socialise with people from similar backgrounds, like black, white, Zulu, Sotho, or people from rural areas.”

Moseli, who attends a private school in Johannesburg, said he was the only black student in a class of 27. “We therefore can’t sit here and pretend that we live in an equal society,” he said. Black said efforts to use Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) to redress inequalities between blacks and whites were futile.

“BEE is not helping the man on the street. it is just helping the wealthy get wealthier.” This met with dissent from some members of the audience who felt BEE was being twisted by “the biased liberal media” to make it look problematic when it was actually effective.

Among those that were given the chance to air their views was Afriforum spokesperson Ian Cameron who said that “integration is not working in South Africa because it is being forced on people”. He said it was his organisation’s belief that whites were being aggressively forced out of the economy.

Cosatu representative at the debate, Ronald Mampani said there was no way South Africa could be seen as an equal nation when “we still think of soccer as black and cricket as white. “We must see whites [mixing with blacks] at Baragwanath and at taxi ranks, not just at rugby matches and at big soccer matches. The rainbow should be seen everywhere.”

In response to a request from BBC anchor, Audrey Brown, about support for the nationalisation of mines among the audience, about three-quarters of the audience were against it. Commenting on this particular , Ziko Pali, outgoing secretary of the Wits Student Representative Council said “a debate bigger that the paranoia about losing investors [if mines get nationalised] is needed.”

The BBC Africa Debate is a monthly initiative of the BBC Africa News service which allows an invited audience to “engage robustly with a distinguished international panel to help inform global perceptions of the continent.”