Why we need a Reconciliation Barometer in 2014, more than ever!

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation has devoted the the latest of their annual Reconciliation Barometer reports to reflecting on past progress, present relevance and future challenges for reconciliation in SA.

Released today Reflecting on Reconciliation: Lessons from the past, prospects for the future reflects on over a decade’s worth of SARB data...

Reconciliation requires that South Africans feel like they belong to a common national identity which is inclusive, rather than exclusionary, and in which they can trust one another. A political culture of inclusivity is important for reconciliation.

2014 SA Reconcilliation Barometer

_Authored by Dr Kim Wale, key trends in the report (sourced from more than a decade of SARB data) demonstrate _that:

South Africans have grown disillusioned with the idea of a united South African identity and are calling for a more complex understanding of what it means to share a South African identity. Over the past decade, South Africans’ agreement that a united national identity is desirable has steadily decreased by 17.9%, from 72.9% in 2003 to 55% in 2013. Interpreting these results, Wale demonstrates that they speak to the need to develop a more nuanced understanding of South African identity which allows for diversity within unity.

Trust between people from different race groups has consistently improved over the past decade. Reported mistrust of other race groups has steadily decreased by 12.5%, from 40.6% in 2003 to 28.1% in 2013.

Increasing racial integration excludes the poor While levels of interracial socialisation have improved over the past 11 years, the poor remain largely excluded from this social integration. The percentage of South Africans who report often or always talking to someone from another race increased from 10.4% in 2003 to 23.5% in 2013.

However, when this figure is disaggregated by class, South Africans in the higher living standards measure (LSM) groups are much more likely to socialize across race groups than the middle LSMs, while the lowest LSMs are the least likely to socialise across race.

Trust in leaders has decreased for black South Africans over time Black South Africans demonstrate the highest levels of trust in leaders and parliament. However these figures are decreasing over time. In 2003 70.4% of Black South Africans agreed that they trust Parliament. However, in 2013 this figure had dropped to 52.9%. Similarly, between 2003 and 2013, trust in national leaders for this group declined from 62.5% to 53.8%.

South Africans less likely to acknowledge the oppression of apartheid South Africans are 10.1% less likely to agree that apartheid was a crime against humanity in 2013 than they were in 2003.

White South Africans have an important role to play in furthering reconciliation White South Africans demonstrate lower levels of trust in the political system, lower levels of support for racial integration, higher levels of denial about the injustices of apartheid, and lower levels of support for redress related to such injustices.

On the positive side, over the past 11 years white South Africans have significantly improved in their support for the political system, as well as for racial integration (and especially interracial marriage). Wale proposes that these and related findings speak to the importance of developing a national conversation about the challenge for white South Africans who hold cultural, economic and historical power, to engage more deeply with their role in reconciliation.

Coloured South Africans demonstrate increasing disillusionment with reconciliation

While this group generally demonstrated high levels of trust in leaders, approval for racial integration, and agreement on the injustice of apartheid in 2003, their responses to the same issues looked far more pessimistic in 2013. In general, the SARB recorded increasing feelings of exclusion expressed by Coloured South Africans, as well as a deepening disillusionment around reconciliation-related issues.

"Trust is crucial in reconciliation. In its absence, fear and alienation, which are not conducive to healing social relationships, thrive."

Dr Kim Wale

The 20th year of South Africa's democracy has also been the first without our international icon of reconciliation, Nelson Mandela.

Progress in reconciliation cannot be assessed in a simple linear fashion. Instead, it seems that the light cast in the spaces where we improve in reconciliation pushes us yet further to engage with (and transform) the shadows cast by our shared histories of oppression and violence.

2014 SA Reconcilliation Barometer

More information, including the freely downloadable full report, is available at www.ijr.org.za

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