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Curiosity 17: #Democracy

Curiosity, May 2024: The 17th issue of Curiosity, Wits University’s research magazine, is themed: #Democracy, and very timely as we celebrate 30 years of democracy in South Africa. We turned to our academics and professional staff for their research, perspectives and commentary across faculties on both the progress and our shortcomings in our democracy. Their work interrogates democracy as a political system and its liberal, conservative, and other alternatives. We share research and expertise on hot topics including AI, religion, migration, social grants, and the National Health Insurance. Our feature stories explore how media maintain and support democracy in the 21st century, and how crime and corruption undermine it. Despite our shortcomings, there is reason to be cautiously optimistic about the country’s future. #WitsForGood #ResearchForGood #InnovationForGood

In this issue:

  • The rise and fall and reform of democracy: A violent freedom (page 8): Despite the knife-edge upon which South Africans live, the country is not, in fact, a failed state – but a new form of democracy is required.
  • How colonialism bastardised ancient rituals (page 18): Traditional rituals and practices such as lobola and initiation are often viewed through a Western lens and are misunderstood as misogynist or patriarchal.
  • Social grants: A hand up, not a hand-out (page 20): The existing child support grant and proposed pregnancy grant both give children a healthier start in life, and they make democratic and economic sense.
  • NHI: From aspiration to implementation (page 24): Access to healthcare services is a constitutional right but is equal healthcare in South Africa a reality in our lifetime?
  • Playing the migration blame game (page 26): Blaming foreigners is merely a smokescreen for politicians' own failures.
  • AI and democracy: For better and for worse (page 32): Today’s news and current affairs landscape, which underpins our democracy, requires both ethical content producers and discerning consumers.
  • Religion and the state: A shifting cocktail of contradictions (page 36): Can political structures withstand the pressures of religious groups’ ‘New Right’ ideology?
  • What environmental equality in Africa really look like (page 44): South Africa must urgently industrialise to ensure sustainability and a genuinely just transition.


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