Anti-African sentiment persists in 'proudly South African' society

Only about half of those surveyed in the 2019 Barometer report say they have experienced reconciliation or believe that SA has made progress with reconciliation. Despite that, there is a strong sentiment of patriotism.
Only about half of those surveyed in the 2019 Barometer report say they have experienced reconciliation or believe that SA has made progress with reconciliation. Despite that, there is a strong sentiment of patriotism.
Image: Sandile Ndlovu

South Africans are patriotic but afraid - showing distrust towards each other as violent crime endures, and towards other Africans.

This is according to the SA Reconciliation Barometer 2019, released by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).

“Xenophobic sentiments are pervasive, with roughly four in 10 South Africans agreeing that they are likely to prevent people from other African countries from accessing certain services and from participating in certain activities,” the report stated.

“Debunking myths that xenophobic attitudes are present primarily among poor people and those with limited formal education, further investigation of the barometer’s data shows a greater extent of xenophobic sentiment among educated groups in comparison with groups with limited formal education, and a greater extent of xenophobic attitudes among higher socio-economic measures (SEM) groups in comparison with lower SEM groups.

“In addition, younger age groups also show a greater extent of xenophobic beliefs in comparison with older age groups.”

Perceptions of safety and violence also affect the way South Africans interact with each other.

“Crime, coupled with limited capacity to prosecute perpetrators, has implications for citizens and their lived and perceived levels of safety – affecting the fibre of South African society,” the report said.

The degree of access to tangible and intangible social goods is also affecting social cohesion and reconciliation processes. The barometer shows that 48% of South Africans are dissatisfied with their self-perceived economic power and 44% feel the same way about their self-perceived political power, “indicating a sense of disempowerment for almost half of the South African population”.

Despite this, most South Africans want unity and think it is possible, with this year showing the greatest optimism in this area since the inception of the barometer in 2013. And a vast majority of those surveyed are proudly South African, with 81.6% agreeing that they want their children to think of themselves as South African.

“These findings bode well for building cohesion among South Africans. However, challenges to these hopes persist in the form of historical confrontation – such as with regard to whether the old South African flag should be banned – and pervasive sources of division such as inequality and differences between people from different race groups and political parties,” the report said.

The barometer shows that most South Africans agree that reconciliation is a problem as long as:

  • corruption continues;
  • political parties sow division;
  • those who were affected by apartheid continue to be poor;
  • gender-based violence continues;
  • racial categories are used to measure transformation; and
  • racism remains unaddressed in society.

Said the IJR: “There are many aspects of society that can be improved on in the eyes of ordinary South Africans in order to support the reconciliation process, with the involvement of various stakeholders being harnessed.” These, it said, could “present different entry points in contributing to reconciliation processes”.

Would you like to comment on this article or view other readers' comments? Register (it’s quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.