The Big Debate

Genres: Talk Show, Current Affairs
Broadcast on: SABC2,, eKasi+, eNCA, BBC World News



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Broadcaster information
South African channels

eNCA : 11 Feb 2009 - 21 Jan 2014
BBC World News : 16 Jul 2011 - 24 Nov 2012
SABC2 : 17 Feb 2013 - 10 Mar 2018 : 05 Jan 2014 - 20 Nov 2016
eKasi+ : 05 Jan 2014 - 09 Mar 2014

About the Show

The Big Debate is a South African current affairs talk show devised by Ben Cashdan and produced by Broad Daylight Films which hosts "town hall"-style debates across the country and in other countries on topical, controversial issues with leading activists and public personalities as well as community leaders and ordinary citizens.

The Big Debate travels across South Africa and beyond, holding our leaders to account and giving a voice to ordinary residents and communities. Nothing is off limits, from health to education, land reform to racism and more.

The show grapples with the most controversial issues and tries to find solutions. From movers and shakers to the masses, everyone is given a chance to air their views.

Over the years the show has featured decision makers and activists from across the world, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, world music icon Angelique Kidjo, former World Bank president Robert Zoellick, former African Union Chairperson Bingu wa Mutharika, former Botswana President Festus Mogae, and former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair.

It has also included the voices of residents and community leaders from as far afield as Khayelitsha in Cape Town, New York and New Delhi as well as Bolivia and Colombia.

The show was devised by Ben Cashdan in 2009.


Season 1

Presenter: Dan Moyane
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Broadcaster: eNews Channel and
Locations: Johannesburg and Cape Town


1. Zimbabwe
2. The Elections
3. Crime
4. Sex & Culture
5. The Arms Deal
6. Health Care

Season 2

Presenter: Redi Tlhabi
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Broadcaster: eNews Channel and
Locations: Johannesburg


1. State and Civil Society
2. Race & Transformation
3. Jobs & Incomes
4. International Relations & Human Rights
5. Education
6. Sustainable Energy and the Environment

Season 3

In place of Season 3 of The Big Debate, the show produced four episodes of The World Debate for BBC World News, using the same format as The Big Debate.

Presenters: Zeinab Badawi, Redi Tlhabi
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Main Broadcaster: BBC World News
Additional broadcasters: Several national broadcasters in Southern Africa
Locations: New York, Lusaka, Johannesburg


1. Millennium Development Goals: What's Holding us Back?
2. Is Homosexuality Un-African?
3. Does Mining Benefit Africa?
4. Why Poverty?

Season 4

There were 10 episodes in this season, including three of the BBC shows from Season 3.

Presenter: Siki Mgabadeli
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Broadcaster: SABC2
Locations: De Doorns, Johannesburg, Soweto


1. Does Land Reform Threaten Our Future?
2. Does Public Healthcare Stand a Chance?
3. Is Homosexuality Un-African?
4. Can Teachers Fix Education?
5. Have Artists Sold Out?
6. Does Mining Benefit Africa?
7. Why Poverty?
8. Is Our Economy Racist?
9. Are the Police Out of Control?
10. Have we Betrayed Women?   

Season 5

Presenter: Siki Mgabadeli
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Broadcaster: eNCA and
Locations: Johannesburg, Cape Town, New York


1. Workers' Rights
2. The Right to Communicate
3. Maternal Health
4. Water & Sanitation
5. Youth
6. Transport
7. Corruption

Season 6

Presenter: Masechaba Ndlovu
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan


Women's Rights
Young Leaders
Rhodes Must Fall
Respect for Politicians

Season 7

Presenter: Masechaba Ndlovu
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan


Constitution of South Africa
Food Security
Business Ethics
Rape Culture
Press Freedom

Season 8

Presenter: Redi Tlhabi
Executive Producer: Ben Cashdan
Broadcaster: SABC2


State Capture
Radical Economic Transformation
Social Movements and Protest in South Africa
Political Party Funding and Democracy
Women's Rights
Nuclear Deal


The fifth season of the show was due to be broadcast on SABC2 from 12 September, 2013, but the SABC's acting chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, unilaterally ordered the show off the air just prior to its premiere. Motsoeneng also ordered all repeats of The Big Debate to be stopped.

The broadcaster refused to give a reason for the cancellation but claimed it was "incorrectly commissioned" and allowed the SABC newsroom to be "compromised".

The decision led to a massive public outcry and was followed by a public protest at the end of October at the SABC's Auckland Park headquarters, on the back of growing concerns from the public about the suppression of freedom of speech at the SABC.

One of the scheduled episodes was to deal with government corruption, leading to a public perception that such a debate would not be tolerated on the state-owned and -operated broadcaster.

Shortly thereafter the fifth season was picked up by DStv's eNCA channel, with future broadcasts on the Sabido stable of channels including, eAfrica and eKasi+.

The series returned to SABC2 for the eighth season in 2018, five years after it last aired on the public broadcaster.


Host - Himself

Host - Herself

Host - Herself

Host - Herself

Host - Herself

Latest Articles

New season: The Big Debate 8

03 Feb 2018 | Written by: Shows Editor | From: Today's TV Highlights
CHANNEL: SABC2 | This town hall debate show returns to SABC2 with Redi Tlhabi, tackling State Capture in the first episode.

TV debate: Radical economic transformation

02 Dec 2017 | Written by: Shows Editor | From: Today's TV Highlights
CHANNEL: SABC2 | Hlaudi banned it, rescued it and now it's back on SABC2 with Redi Tlhabi at the helm.

The Big Debate tackles racism in new season

21 Jul 2016 | Written by: TVSA Team | From: The Big Debate
It was banned by the SABC, rescued by and now it's back for a new season with a Big Debate this Sunday.


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