Delta Secondary School was judged the best overall debate winner at school level while its learner Thelma Mackinza was crowned best school debater at the Open Debate Tournament held at the University of Namibia (Unam) last Sunday.
The 16-year-old Mackinza says the greatest motivation to continue with debating is being rewarded and honoured. “It took a lot of commitment, work, passion – and my coaches and family kept me going,” she says. Mackinza adds that debating is the greatest platform to express oneself, a way to get a point across and boost self-esteem.
“[It is] not often that [these] tournaments happen. However, debating is very important because it teaches you how to present yourself in public, and among everything, it is [a] great means of communication. It is versatile, especially for an aspiring politician or lawyer,” she says.
“If you are a high school student you should find yourself doing debates in order to better your English and self because it opens up your mind,” she urges.
Unam’s Open Debate Tournament is the biggest debating tournament in the country. This year the event hosted both a high school category and university level category. The tournament was held on campus, followed by a gala dinner and prize-giving ceremony at Protea Hotel Thüringerhoff, where participants along with supporters and their families gathered to witness the best public speakers and teams getting recognised in both categories.
The best university team award went to Cliff Simata and John Haufiku who each received N$5 000. Simata, a final year law student, has been debating for the past six years. He says debating has been a big part of his life at university. He went from bad, better but now he debates as a hobby because it’s not as intense as it was in the past, he adds.
Though this is not his first championship as he has won a South African championship before, Simata says he is happy to win this tournament as it proves the state of debating in Namibia is looking bright.
“The Unam society has been the foundation of debating and it’s still the foundation but we have other organisations like the Namibian Debating Union that is trying to make debating a sport. There’s a Debating Academy and the Namibian Public Speaking and Debate Cup, which I’m hoping university students will be involved in very soon.”
Haufiku, also a spokesperson at Unam, has been absent for a few years but rejoined the debating scene because of his deep love for the pursuit. “Debating is important for the development of society. Without debate we won’t engage each other on our different values and we won’t come up with principles that take us forward,” he says.
Although debating helps erase stereotypes and understand other people, there’s little support from government, Haufiku says regretfully. “There is no national tournament funded by government. Namibia needs to have more national tournaments like in South Africa. Not only should government play a role but the corporate sector as well,” he pleads.
Vice-president of the Namibian Debate Union and a Unam student, Carl Pesat, says the mandate is to make debating a sports code in Namibia, whereby debate gets recognised to make sure there is funding and that the university team is sent out every year to the world championships. “Debating can help influence society, that’s how influential it is.
Everyone deserves that opportunity to engage and go outside and represent the country. People going there will take part and compete and bring the exposure home,” adds Pesat, who has been debating for almost ten years now.