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Race, a social barricade
Article By: Michael Hamlyn
Wed, 09 Dec 2009 12:12 AM
Although almost half of South Africans feel that race relations have improved since 1994, 46 percent never socialise ? that is meet in their home or a friend's home ? with people of other races.
Even a quarter of people who work never talk to people of other races on a weekday.
These figures come from a survey ? a 'reconciliation barometer' ? carried out under the auspices of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation which has been doing regular soundings like this since it was established in 2003 to carry on some of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The results of the survey, which were released on Wednesday, were based on a poll carried out by Ipsos Markinor in March and April of this year ? that is before the election. In fact the last day of the survey was the day before the 22 April general election.
According to Kate Lefko-Everett, the project leader for the institute's barometer, the results are consistent with other opinion polls such as the Afro-Barometer, and the Presidential development indicator, and show that in recent years confidence in public institutions, political leadership and government performance has declined.
Confidence in the presidency itself has declined by 25 percentage points since 2006, and by around 20 points in both national and provincial government. Parliament has drooped by 16 points, and political parties by
14. Even so, the percentages of South African who have confidence in the
governmental institutions are generally above 50. That would be a great
score for a political leader in an opinion poll in Europe or America.
All the same, getting on for two-thirds of people (58 percent) agree with the statement that 'leaders are not concerned with people like me'. While more
than half ? and the percentage is rising steadily since 2007 ? would agree
that taking part in strikes and demonstrations is justified to defend one's
human rights. Thirteen percent would agree that using force or violence is
Jan Hofmeyr, who heads the institute's political analysis unit,
considers that the figures have been rising since 2007 because that was when
the global financial crisis first began to threaten the economic security of
South Africans. He also suggests that the same crisis has affected responses
to questions about economic and personal safety.
Only 38 percent of those polled
reckoned their personal economic situation will improve in the next two
years. Only 35 percent thought their personal safety will improve in the same
period. These figures are 21 and 19 percentage points lower than the
equivalent in 2004.
"Consideration should be given to the causes of declines in confidence,"
Lefko-Everett said, "and ways to begin to regain public trust."
Interestingly however her figures point out that race is not the most important social division in South Africa. It has dropped from 22 percent to 18 percent in the past two years. Class ? the rich and poor divide ? is more important, but has also diminished from 32 percent to 27 percent. But the percentage of people believing that political parties are divisive has doubled from 12 percent to 24 percent.
It is not impossible, however, that this figure may be distorted by the
fact that the poll was taken at the height of the election campaign.