Barometer shows lack of perceived improvement in race relations

December 8, 2015, 6:53pm

By Linda Ensor, Business Day Live

Majority of South Africans feel race relations have either stayed same or deteriorated since dawn of democratic era, annual reconciliation barometer concludes

THE majority of South Africans feel that race relations have either stayed the same or deteriorated since the dawn of the democratic era in 1994, the annual reconciliation barometer published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) has concluded.

A total of 61.4% held this belief, the IJR survey found, with only 35.6% saying they did not experience any racism in their daily lives.

The country remains torn by its historical divisions, particularly by a stark and growing income inequality that the bulk of the respondents of the IJR’s survey found to be a major source of social division.

"Most believe that it is impossible to achieve a reconciled society for as long as those who were disadvantaged under apartheid remain poor within the ‘new SA’," the head of IJR’s policy and analysis programme, Jan Hofmeyr, said at a media briefing to release the results of the barometer.

"Although there is a desire among most South Africans to have more contact with people from racial groups other than their own, they are precluded from doing so by the spatial and economic legacies of apartheid. These also service to reinforce old prejudices," he said.

Key findings of the research were that there was a widespread agreement (59.2%) that SA had made progress towards national reconciliation. However, together with the lack of perceived improvement in race relations there was a low level of trust between racial groups. A high 67.3% noted that they had little to no trust in South Africans of other races.

Little social interaction between people of different racial groups took place in intimate spaces such as private homes and social or communal gatherings. Most opportunities for racial interaction exist among the better off, more mobile sections of the population.

The survey found that although most of the population mainly associated with their own race and language groups, 75.5% believed that being South African was an important element of their identity. The majority (71%) believe it was important to strive for the creation of a united nation.