Inequality: Greatest Challenge of the 21st century

Pikkety lecture provokes intense debate

The greatest challenge facing South Africa is inequality. Vice-Chancellor of the University of Johannesburg, Ihron Rensburg, has gone further to say that he considers it to be the greatest challenge of the 21st Century.

By inviting French economist Professor Thomas Piketty to deliver the 13th Nelson Mandela Annual Lecture, the Nelson Mandela Foundation lifted this issue forcefully onto the national public domain. Piketty delivered the lecture at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto campus, on 3 October 2015.

In his address, Piketty – an expert on income inequality, and author of the book Capital in the 21st Century – made a powerful argument for wealth taxation and the creation of a global wealth register. His phenomenal book and now his lecture have provoked and will continue to provoke intense debate in the weeks and months to come.

Not only was it broadcast more than once on national television this week, it also linked directly on the day from Soweto via live-streaming to a host of universities in Africa and the world.

They were the Polytechnic of Namibia, the University College of Dublin, Ibadan University in Nigeria, the University of the West Indies, Lundt University in Sweden, National University of Singapore, the University of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and the University of Botswana.

His phenomenal book and now his lecture have provoked and will continue to provoke intense debate in the weeks and months to come.

This week we carry an interview with the young man who sparked off the Rhodes Must Fall Movement, Chumani Maxwele and another with a University of Free State student leader, Trevor Shaku. Both spoke powerfully about the devastating impact of inequality.

At The Journalist, we will encourage students and young scholars to enter the fray.

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