File photo: Themba Hadebe
File photo: Themba Hadebe

SA forgetting apartheid, survey finds

Time of article published Dec 3, 2014

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Cape Town - Whites are less likely to remember the oppressive nature of apartheid than other citizens, according to the 2014 SA Reconciliation Barometer released on Wednesday.

Only 53 percent of whites who took part in the survey agreed with the statement that apartheid was a crime against humanity.

This was compared to 80 percent of blacks, 77 percent of Indians, and 70 percent of coloured citizens who agreed with the statement.

Whites were half as likely as black South Africans to agree with redressing the injustice of the past.

The barometer, published by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), looked at 10 years of data collected between 2003 and 2013.

The report was titled “Reflecting on Reconciliation: Lessons from the Past, Prospects for the Future”.

It was found that in 2003, 86.5 percent of South Africans agreed that apartheid was an inhumane crime compared to 76.4 percent today.

Information was collected during face-to-face interviews with a nationally representative sample across all provinces. The 2013 sample was around 1 989 metro inhabitants and 1 601 non-metro inhabitants.

According to the report, remembering the oppressive nature of apartheid encouraged citizens to be aware of its legacy and allow for transformation, rather than reproducing unequal relationships.

The barometer's project leader, Dr Kim Wale, said the findings perhaps spoke to how history was being taught and that there was a real need to engage white South Africans on what their whiteness meant in relation to the lived experiences of other races.

IJR director Fanie du Toit said the barometer was not “anti-white”, but anti-racist.

“Racism is an illness that can destroy a society. We can't afford it in South Africa.”

Asked about how the findings related to a seemingly increased trend of racial attacks in Cape Town, Du Toit said one needed to look at how representative the attacks were of the general mindset of the white population.

“One way to look at it is that the bigger interracial contact is smoking out the racists. It is exposing people who have not adopted (this trend) and it is becoming increasingly difficult to hold on to,” he said.

“That is not to say that this is exceptionalism.”

The barometer also found that South Africans are disillusioned with the idea of a united nation.

Citizens' desire for a united national identity had decreased from 72.9 percent in 2003 to 55 percent last year.

“Amidst realities of diversity and inequality, perhaps the idea of unity is simplistic and does not adequately capture these realities,” the report stated.


Probing deeper into identity, the research found more people were associating with their race as an important marker of their identity.

Despite increased racial identity, interracial mistrust had decreased from over 40 percent to 30 percent in the last decade.

The report interpreted the results as the country opening up the space to move towards a shared identity of transformation rather than assimilation, characterised by difference, power, and conflict.


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