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Reconciliation a pipe dream without equality: study

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Reconciliation in SA will remain a pipe dream if economic equality is not achieved, the latest SA Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) survey has found.

Forty-six percent of South Africans are in agreement that “reconciliation is impossible while people who were disadvantaged under apartheid continue to be poor”, the report by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), which conducts the yearly survey, found.

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Members of the crowd hold hands at the Glastonbury music festival after being urged to \"Make Poverty History\" by Sir Bob Geldof, Glastonbury England, Saturday June 25, 2005. At 4pm Geldof led the crowd at the British music festival in a holding of hands as part of the Make Poverty History campaign which will culminate at the forthcoming G8 summit in Edinburgh. (AP Photo/Jon Super)

In a country whose inequality levels remained among the highest in the world, the gap between rich and poor was the biggest division, 32 percent of South Africans responded.

Only 17 percent of people surveyed felt reconciliation was possible in the circumstances, with 33 percent stating they were uncertain or did not know.

Comments from the qualitative texts of the survey summed up the feeling among South Africans. One interviewee said: “Poverty and richness, those two are alienating each other, we do not communicate any more.”

Another said: “Before we had social classes based on race. Today we have classes based on your social status. How much money you have.”

The survey results also suggested that South Africans identified themselves more on ethnic, language and racial lines than with the national or African identity.

Citizens were also more likely to identify with others of the same language, ethnicity and race. However, 66 percent agreed that building a united SA was possible and desirable.

Kate Lefko-Everett, a senior project leader for the barometer, said: “That SA remains a deeply divided society is a discouragingly consistent finding of the survey. However, there are positive signals of progress in reconciliation, social cohesion, nation building and democratic consolidation, and these should not be overlooked.”

Among the other findings was that confidence in local government remained much lower than for the provincial and national spheres.

Only 43 percent of South Africans expressed confidence in local government, compared with evaluations of provincial government standing at 56 percent, and the national government at 65 percent. Sixty-one percent of those surveyed were confident in Parliament, and the Presidency earned the approval of 65 percent of those interviewed.

Overall, 70 percent of citizens approved of workforce transformation and employment equity.

But amendments to the Employment Equity Act still under review were questioned by the majority of citizens, with 59 percent stating that they thought the application of the law should take provincial and not national demographics into account.

Public opinion was divided over Struggle songs. This followed the high-profile case in which the Johannesburg High Curt banned the singing of the Struggle song containing the lyrics Dubul’ iBhunu (Shoot the Boer).

Differences were clearly drawn along racial lines as the finding showed 51 percent of blacks agreed that the singing of the song should be allowed, compared with 53 percent of whites who agreed with the court ruling.

Twenty-five percent of blacks and 26 percent of whites were uncertain.

“Technically, the court was asked to pronounce on its interpretation of a provision which is intended to protect the dignity of all citizens. Yet in practice, any judgment was bound to be viewed as an exclusive validation of the distinct tradition of only one of the two parties,” said Jan Hofmeyr from the IJR.

The survey draws a national sample that is representative of the country’s adult population aged 15 and above. About 2 000 metro and 1 560 non-metro adults, with an equal gender split, were interviewed.

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