South Africa’s democracy – reasons for hope



Recently expressed concerns about the fragility of South Africa’s democracy may be assuaged by the results of a new survey which finds that the country’s race relations are in a good state. The findings are “testimony to the commitment of the majority of South Africans to see our democracy succeed,” said Sara Gon, a Policy Fellow at the Institute of Race Relations which commissioned the survey.

According to the report:

  • A majority of 76.2% of South Africans feel race relations have stayed the same or improved since 1994.
  • A majority of 85.4% of South Africans agree that different race groups need each other.
  • A majority of 90.8% of South Africans would support their children being taught by someone of a different race. White South Africans support the need for redress.
  • Black South Africans do not believe that whites should be treated as second class citizens.
  • Only small minorities of both black and white people hold hostile views of the other group.
  • Differences in opinion between race groups are seldom much more significant than opinions within race groups. For example, within the white population there may be a level of disagreement about quotas in sports teams comparable to the level of disagreement that exists between black people and white people.
  • Black and white South Africans agree that improved living standards and better economic prospects will secure sound future race relations.

“The results should fill all South Africans with hope. The acrimonious race debate that has raged in newspapers and on social media this year is not a reflection of what the silent majority of South Africans feel,” said Gon. “The great majority of South Africa’s people respect each other and want to continue getting on well with each other. This is remarkable considering the poverty and unemployment levels that still confront our society. It is testimony to the commitment of the majority of South Africans to see our democracy succeed.”

The report provides a welcome contrast to reports that South Africans are losing faith in democracy, citing a recent survey by Afrobarometer which showed that growing dissatisfaction with the country’s leadership and government performance has spilled over into frustration with democracy in general.

Other observers suggest that renewed civil engagement, evident in the #ZumaMustFall and #FeesMustFall movements, among others, can put the country’s democracy back on track.


Print Friendly, PDF & Email