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Dr Molapo Qhobela, Profs Hussein Solomon, Prof Zitha Mokomane, Prof Francis Petersen, Philippe Burger, Prof Vasu Reddy, Profs Narnia Bohler-Muller, Dr Derek Davids

HSRC Publishing launched a new book in their flagship publication State of the Nation series, titled Quality of Life and Wellbeing. The event was hosted by the University of the Free State (UFS) on Thursday, 13 June at the Equitas Auditorium in Bloemfontein.

Dr Molapo Qhobela, Deputy Vice-Chancellor: Institutional Change, Strategic Partnerships and Societal Impact, guided the panel and the audience through a lively conversation about the content of the title.

A discussion panel were led by editors Prof Vasu Reddy, Vice-Chancellor: Research and Internationalisation of the UFS, with Profs Narnia Bohler-Muller, divisional executive in the HSRC’s Developmental, Capable and Ethical State research division; and acting Group Executive; Zitha Mokomane, a professor in the Department of Sociology at the University of Pretoria; the fourth editor Prof Crain Soudien, was not present at the launch.

This flagship publication marks the 20th anniversary of the State of the Nation series and developed into an indispensable scholarly work that focus on the wellbeing and quality of life, of the current state of South Africa. The publication process took two- and-half years to produce, previous volumes were published in the 2019 and 2021 respectively, with poverty and inequality and an ethics of care being a strong thematic.

The Vice-Chancellor and Principal, Prof Francis Petersen, mentioned in his opening address that with the first publication of the State of the Nation series. That South Africa was still dealing with the complex legacies of colonialism and apartheid and was contending with the post-apartheid reconstruction, development, and reconciliation.

Prof Vasu Reddy addressed the panel and audience by presenting descriptive comments that focused on the background, the concept, the process, and some of the scope and drivers informing the text and context shaping the volume. He stated that some of the drivers that shaped this volume included the spectre of poverty and inequality which is an underlying implicit theme. Their implication for human wellbeing and human conditions in several diverse ways remains key.

Prof Narnia Bohler-Muller who wrote the chapter that addresses environmental and human health, stated that the constitution was the starting point as what is embedded in the constitution is the recognition of the importance of wellbeing although the word is seldom used in the constitution. She emphasised ‘wellbeing’ as used in Section 24, actually deals with environmental rights. Therefore, we thought this is a complex intersection – law, human rights, constitutionalism, health and wellbeing, and quality of life, so let us explore it. She stated that all know that the environment is extremely important and that we cannot live without it. Consequently, humans are in a massive crisis in the world when it comes to the environment and climate change. In addition, there is an intersectionality between environment, climate, health, and wellbeing. Other issues also include clean water and the risk of extreme weather events as a result of climate change.

Prof Mokomane who is the co-author of the chapter titled Quality of Life and political support in SA – resilient nation. According to her two questions inspired her, first: Do peoples’ perception of quality of governance influence their quality of life? And the second: Which aspects of government quality signify as important contributors to quality of life? “This chapter reaffirms the notion that was held by many that the general public has become increasing dissatisfied by the status quo in South Africa over the past decade. We concluded that the political and economic crises of the past decade have begun to create a scenario in which personal fear is gaining traction over the hope that South Africans are known for. “The overall conclusion is that for many South Africans resilience has been displaced by resignation which has introduced the risk of further disability and fragility in the country in the future.” Profs Hussein Solomon from the Centre for Gender and African Studies, Philippe Burger, Dean of the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences and Dr Derek Davids, research director in the HSRC's Developmental, Capable and Ethical State research division and an advisory member at the Department of Applied Legal Studies at Cape Peninsula University of Technology, were respondents to the text.

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