News / Africa

Economic Gaps Slowing Reconciliation in South Africa

A South African woman, bounces the ball on her head while playing with a football next to their homes in a Soweto, township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, July 4, 2013.
A South African woman, bounces the ball on her head while playing with a football next to their homes in a Soweto, township on the outskirts of Johannesburg, July 4, 2013.
Anita Powell
A research group is appealing for what it calls “radical reconciliation” in South Africa as the nation approaches the 20th anniversary of the end of apartheid.  The report by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation found stark inequalities that continue to fall along race lines. 

The new study makes some heartening findings as South Africa approaches 20 years of democratic rule.  Yet it also shows that the nation’s old wounds go very deep.

One of the survey’s key findings is somewhat encouraging: just two decades after South Africa ended its race-based apartheid system, class is now more important to many South Africans than race.

However, researchers also found that South Africans at the very bottom of that scale are nearly all black, sais Kim Wale, lead author of this week's report.

"One of our key findings is that South Africans report that class inequality has become the greatest impediment to national reconciliation," Wale said. "However, class inequality continues to reflect racial division.”

The nation’s last census backed that up, showing that on average, white South African households earn more than six times what black households do. Researchers interviewed more than 3,500 South Africans in all nine provinces for the institute's survey.

Little faith in government

Wale also noted that South Africans have less faith than ever in their government, with confidence in the national government dropping 11 percent since last year.   

The report calls for South African leaders to seek what the authors call “radical reconciliation.”  That is sure to become a talking point in next year’s national election, with new opposition parties are already calling for the government to nationalize key resources in a bid to address economic inequality.

Wale says the party that wins needs to make a serious attempt to address inequality.

“So basically radical reconciliation, it tends to push us beyond the psychological and interpersonal dimensions of the concept of reconciliation to emphasize the importance of addressing material inequalities," she said. "And it proposes that for national reconciliation we need both of these legs: the psychological and interpersonal reconciliation, and also the socioeconomic transformation.”

Wale says the survey results are not surprising considering South Africa’s history.

"Apartheid was a very powerfully created system of inequality, it’s going to take a lot of work to undo that.  So it makes sense that at this stage, 20 years into democracy, we need to start asking the hard questions in relation to reconciliation."

This discussion is expected to continue on the national stage as South Africa heads to the polls next year.

You May Like

Photogallery Belgian Security Measures Foreshadow New Normal for Europe

Rising threat of terrorism, disaffected Muslim populations and open borders, along with refugee, migrant crisis, are creating perfect storm for Europe, which some analysts fear continent is ill-suited to weather

Competing Claims of Responsibility for Mali Hotel Attack

Malian authorities ask public for help in identifying gunmen killed in attack, amid conflicting claims of responsibility from multiple jihadist groups active in the country

Debt-ridden Refugees Await Onslaught of Lebanese Winter

Aid agencies are attempting to reduce potentially devastating consequences of freezing conditions and snowstorms that killed eight last year, including three Syrian refugees

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Keith Roberts from: South Africa
December 07, 2013 9:40 PM
Lots of long words which are not explained in detail, but they mean, I think, that Whites must give more so that Blacks can take more. Can this government not make it easier to set up businesses so that employment can be increased?

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs