Durban - Today, December 16, marks the 22nd Day of Reconciliation, a day government sought to recognize the significance of the liberation of the apartheid regime and to create national unity among the people of South Africa.
First celebrated as “Dingane Day”, it stood for the triumph of the Voortrekkers against the Zulu army led by King Dingane at the ‘Battle of Blood River’.
In 1961 it was also the day when Umkhonto weSizwe (MK) was launched as an armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC).
This date was therefore important for both Afrikaner and African communities, and hence named the Day of Reconciliation in 1995, a year after Nelson Mandela became president.
And while many believe that there is still racial division in the country, the Annual Reconciliation Survey finds most still feel a united SA is possible, despite the gap between the rich and poor.
According to the recently released South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) findings by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), most South Africans have indicated their preference for a united South African nation.
“The percentage of South Africans agreeing that a united South Africa is desirable in 2017 reached 75.3%. The majority of South Africans – 68% – believed in 2017 that it is possible to create a united South Africa,” said IJR in a statement.
The survey revealed that only 56.1% of South Africans, however, agree that South Africa has made progress in reconciliation since the end of apartheid.
Seven in ten (73.5%) South Africans feel that South Africa still needs reconciliation, while 63.4% agree that reconciliation is impossible for as long as people who were disadvantaged under apartheid remain poor.
The “gap between rich and poor” is furthermore ranked as the biggest source of division by SARB respondents in 2017.
The SARB 2017 asked respondents whether they think the involvement of specific institutions is important for reconciliation.
More than six in ten South Africans believe that the involvement of various institutions listed – CSOs, business, religious and faith-based organisations and family, friends and individuals – is important.
The role of national government and elected representatives in reconciliation was also deemed important by most South Africans, trust in these institutions has decreased to the point of systemic erosion.
Confidence in institutions in 2017 is the lowest it has been since 2006 in Parliament, national government and provincial government.
Meanwhile, the presidency said in a statement yesterday that a lot of progress was made in fighting poverty, inequality, unemployment and the ‘stubborn legacy of apartheid and colonialism’.
“Work continued in earnest to implement programmes that will improve the quality of life and move us closer to attaining the goal of a truly united, non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous South Africa.
“Our society is built on the values of democracy, equality and respect for all. While the values of non‐racialism and non‐sexism are central to our democratic values and principles. As South Africans we must continue to build on this legacy; there is so much more that unites us as a nation than that which divides us.
“By working together we can build the nation of our collective dreams as we jointly move South Africa forward,” said the presidency.