‘Everything else follows success’

DREAM IT: Gwinyai Dube was able to soar to great heights at Wits through belief in himself. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

DREAM IT: Gwinyai Dube was able to soar to great heights at Wits through
belief in himself. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

Southern Africa’s first black South African Debating Champion, Gwinyai Aubrey Dube, has been successfully elected onto the SRC.

And as a new member, Dube wants “Witsies to realise that we are all a community”.

“Students need to understand their fellow Witsies, not just tolerate them. We can help the larger Wits community if we come together and deal with the issues facing students, staff, cleaners and workers on campus.”

He said he wanted to encourage students to understand the responsibility and weight “we have on our shoulders. We have a huge role to play in the world”.

Dube, Politics and International Relations Honours, believes he can “encourage students to understand transformation at Wits instead of just tolerating it” through his position on the SRC.

Speaking to Wits Vuvuzela about his debating win earlier this year, he said he was “initially focused on winning for Wits, but not winning as a black man”.

“I didn’t realise how important this win was for me was until one of my teammates pointed out that I was the first black male to win such a tournament in South Africa.”

Dube is also the first black Zimbabwean to win such a tournament and this made him a bit of a celebrity in the country.

He decided to run in this year’s SRC election because he wanted to create an “effective SRC”.

Dube made it into the finals of the South African Debating Championship in Botswana, with his speaking partner, Saul Musker (who was part of the international winning team in Thailand). Dube ultimately won the tournament for Wits.

His debating career began in grade seven when his teacher asked him to debate a number of issues.

“From there, I just knew it was something I wanted to pursue. I got into debating in high school but we didn’t take it seriously.”

“Her death shaped me because, before she died, she continuously encouraged me to have faith in my abilities.”

When he got to university, the Wits Debating Union (WDU) was one of the first things he looked into. He immediately joined up and started working his way into competitions.

Dube has overcome many challenges to become a success at Wits. He experienced his parents’ “messy divorce” when he was five, which forced his family to move around a lot.

“Eventually we settled on a family farm just outside of Harare where I lived with my mom’s sister and 12 of my cousins.”

The farm was 30km from his school in Harare and Dube would wake up at 4am to get to school on time.

When Dube was 17 his mother got sick. She realised Dube was going to need his father, even though Dube and his father “had a rocky relationship” at the time. She encouraged them to re-connect.

Just before he left Zimbabwe to come to Wits, Dube’s mother passed away.

“It made me re-evaluate things. I decided to take a gap year. Her death shaped me because, before she died, she continuously encouraged me to have faith in my abilities. We were best friends.”

Dube said both the divorce and his mother’s death forced him to “grow into his own character”. It taught him how to treat women, and he hoped his relationships would never resemble his parent’s marriage.

“Everything else follows success”, a saying his father taught him, has stuck with him throughout his time at university. “My dad’s words inspire [me] every day, together with the faith my mom always had which lives within me.”

He has a message for fellow Witsies: “Success is only limited by how far you can dream.”


Girls victorious in a guys debating world


FIRST WORD:  The women from the Wits Debating Union celebrate their triumphs. From left to right:  Jabulile Mabuza, Noluthando Yeni, Irene Mpofu, Angelinah Mofokeng and Catherine Seabe.                                                   Photo: Ilanit Chernick

FIRST WORD: The women from the Wits Debating Union celebrate their triumphs. From left to right: Jabulile Mabuza, Noluthando Yeni, Irene Mpofu, Angelinah Mofokeng and Catherine Seabe. Photo: Ilanit Chernick

FOR THE first time in its 15-year-old-history of competing, there are now eight women in the Wits Debating Union (WDU), or the Lions, as they are called.

The women debaters feel they can celebrate Women’s Day with tangible progress, having broken the traditional patriarchal past. However, another transition towards diversity is the fact that the union was once white dominated but is now fully multi-racial.

Chairperson Noluthando Yeni who feels debating has grown her confidence, quipped: “Men are looking for strong, intelligent women.”

BA student, Catherine Seabe, exclaims: “I feel like I can take over the world!”

All five girls joined their high school debating teams and decided to continue until university level. Angelinah Mofokeng, a first year BA Dramatic Arts student, said: “it was fun to come to Wits and find something other than the Arts to focus on”.

“Debating is a team sport. We don’t do it for individual achievement. We celebrate wins and losses as a team,” explained BSc student Jabulile Mabuza.
Yeni told Wits Vuvuzela that they don’t have any gender issues within the team because they train together and focus on “getting into the spirit” of debating as a “united front”.

“We definitely have a strong sense of pride being the only female members in the team but at the same time we have broken the gender barrier. We blend together like a family, nobody thinks they are better than the other.”

When it comes to relationships within the team, they stressed that the 22 male members are like brothers so they don’t see any “romantics” forming.

Some did say that they “enjoy flirting” with debating members from other universities at inter-university competitions.

Individual backgrounds and famous female figures have influenced some team members to be proud of their femininity and to create equality between genders.

IreneMpofu, a BComm LLB student was deeply influenced by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela who she viewed as “not defined by her gender but rather by her hard work in society”. Mabuza’s own background has inspired her both as a person and in her passion for debating.

“I’ve grown up in the rural areas and seen the wrongs within society, especially the disadvantages women have experienced. This has inspired me to change things. I believe in leaders without titles.”

Talking briefly about the WDU win at the South African Universities Debating Championship, all said they were proud to have seen three female debaters, including WDU’s Athi-Nangamso Nkopo make it to the finals.

It was the first time a win with women in the final had taken place. Yeni said they hope to encourage more young women Witsies to join the WDU through an all-women’s debating tournament happening later this year.

“We want women to be conscious about breaking the stereotypes and gender barriers. It’s all about making us females believe in each other,” she said.

Wits Debating Union crowned SADC champions

The Wits Debating team have won the SADC championship title for the fourth time. Photo: Wits Communications.

The Wits Debating team has won the SADC championship title for the fourth time. Photo: Wits Communications.

by Buhle Zuma.

The Wits Debating Union (WDU) has reasserted their prowess over university teams from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) by being crowned the champions of the 2014 Southern African Universities Debate Championships.

The championships, known as “nationals”, were hosted by the University of Botswana from 5 to 13 July 2014 and drew more than 400 debaters from 30 universities from the SADC countries.

It was sweet glory for the WDU who not only claimed the championship title but walked away with several awards.

Wits debaters were awarded the seven of the top 10 speaker awards; and Wits as an institution was recognised as the best adjudication/judging institution. Furthermore, a Wits speaker won the public speaking championship category.

Wits for the first time had black debaters in the EFL league

WDU Chairperson Noluthando Yeni, who led the team and kept them motivated, added that the 2014 championships will go down in history as the breakthrough year for female debaters and black debaters.

“For the first time this year, females rose to the finals of the championships, one of which is a Witsie. This achievement was considered one of the most transformational moments in debating history and we are so proud of Wits talent that contributed to this,” Yeni.

Whilst Wits debaters have previously won the English First Language (EFL) title with a few black debaters taking part in this category, there has never been a black champion in the first language and this changed this year.

“Wits for the first time had black debaters in the EFL league who progressed to the final and ultimately won the title,” said Yeni.

“We trained hard this year to break the glass ceiling and we did,” said Yeni with an air of triumph.

The months of hard work paid off as the WDU knocked out their arch rival in debating, the University of Cape Town (UCT).

“UCT is our biggest competitor but two Wits teams managed to defeat them in the knockout phases.”

Having conquered the ‘nationals’, Yeni said the WDU will use the remaining months to train hard to defend their title as the best in Africa at the Pan African Tournament to be hosted by the University of Limpopo in December 2014 as well as improve on their World Rankings at the World Championships and Pre-World Championships.

The WDU lost the championship title in 2013 to UCT. They won the title for three consecutive years in 2010, 2011 and 2012.

The Wits Dean of Students, Dr Pamela Dube, has congratulated the WDU for their successes at the tournament.


This article originally appeared on Wits News.