77% of South Africans still want reconciliation; 78% also want unity – survey

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77.1% of South Africans feel that reconciliation is still needed in the country, while 78% also want unity.

This is according to the 2019 SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) on Thursday.

According to IJR’s website, the SARB is an annual public opinion survey that measures “citizens’ attitudes to national reconciliation, social cohesion, transformation and democratic governance.”

Corruption biggest obstacle to reconciliation

The latest survey found that although 77.1% want reconciliation, only 56.9% agreed that South Africans have made progress concerning reconciliation since the end of apartheid.

Even less (51.1%) said they have experienced reconciliation since the end of apartheid. 66.1% felt that the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) was a good foundation for reconciliation.

84.4% of the survey’s respondents cited corruption as the biggest obstacle to reconciliation, while 74% cited political parties that “exploit social divisions for political gains.”

The survey added, “73.3% of South Africans agree that reconciliation is
impossible as long as those who were disadvantaged under apartheid remain poor, while 72.8% agree that reconciliation is impossible while race categories continue to be used to measure transformation.”

72% also cited gender-based violence and 66.4% cited racism as obstacles to reconciliation in South Africa.

Who should take responsibility for reconciliation?

The survey also asked respondents who they thought should take the greatest responsibility for ensuring reconciliation.

55.8% felt that both the formerly oppressed under apartheid and those who were not oppressed should be responsible for reconciliation.

However, 32.6% said those who were oppressed carry the greatest responsibility. According to the survey, this finding is due to the fact that “forgiveness” ranked first among respondents’ understanding of what reconciliation means.

“It is understandable that the perceived weight of the reconciliation on many would lie with those who were oppressed during apartheid,” the survey explained.

The SARB’s lead author, Elnari Potgieter, said in a statement that the survey featured 2,400 respondents nationally. It has been conducted annually since 2003.

She added, “Most South Africans also want unity (78%) and think it is possible (71%) – with this year showing the greatest optimism in this regard since the inception of the SARB. These findings bode well for building cohesion among South Africans.”

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