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South African fragility topic of recent lecture series
Great Decisions lecture
Edward Mienie, the executive director for strategic studies and external relations at The University of North Georgia, spoke to a group attending the Great Decisions lecture series Wednesday. - photo by Alexander Popp

On Wednesday, the Cumming Library hosted its second to last program in the Great Decisions lecture series, with a program on South Africa and the fragility of its democracy by Edward Mienie, the executive director for strategic studies and external relations at The University of North Georgia. 

According to Denise Leeson, Cumming Library branch manager, the library couldn’t be happier with how the program has gone on in the past months, and they fully expect the program to continue for the system in the future. 

 “It has been great. We have had between 55 and 75 people every week. Even in the bad weather and the cold, they love it. The folks here are very interested in the world topics and they ask great questions,” Leeson said, after Mienie’s lecture Wednesday evening. 

“Here at the library we offer lifelong learning and knowledge and we want our community to learn not just about things here, but things outside in the world. We think that the Great Decisions process has been wonderful and we have been lucky enough to host it,” she said.

Leeson said library staff has been especially pleased by the lecturers and how well they have handled sensitive and politically charged topics like China, Russia, U.S. media relations, and militarization and globalization. 

“The professors have done an amazing job imparting impartial information and sometimes tough subjects equally with knowledge from both sides. We have been exceptionally pleased with the entire process,” she said. 

Mienie’s lecture on South Africa mainly focused on the history of the country, the current state of political affairs and scandals within the country, and problems facing South Africans today.  Mienie, himself a South African native and academic who has spent years studying the country, used large amounts of his own research throughout the lecture. 

“First of all we are going to put it into context, to political and historical context so that we can see where a lot of our systemic problems originate from,“ Mienie said. 

“We have an average homicide rate of just over 50 people per day … in South Africa. We have a rape rate of just about every four seconds a woman is raped in South Africa, we have the highest HIV infected population in the world … these are problematic factors,” he said. 

In his lecture Mienie said that rising rates of crimes in South Africa, the high unemployment rate, and other factors are leading to an increasing social and economic disparity within the country.

He ended the lecture, touching on the recent South African parliamentary decision that could allow the government to expropriate land without providing the landowners compensation.

“When you start to threaten private property rights, you are touching on one of the pillars of democracy. When that crumbles then clearly democracy begins to crumble as well,” he said.