2023 South African Reconciliation Barometer Unveils National Progress

  • Persistent Challenges: The survey reveals enduring challenges in economic inequality, lack of trust in leadership and institutions, and concerns about corruption, hindering progress in reconciliation and social cohesion in South Africa.
  • Moderate Progress and Optimism: Despite challenges, there are signs of moderate progress in political engagement, interracial socialization, and a shared belief in the ongoing need for reconciliation, reflecting a sense of responsibility among citizens for a more united nation.
  • Areas of Strength and Hope: The survey highlights areas of strength, such as a strong national identity, acknowledgment of apartheid's historical injustices, and a collective desire for a more united country, indicating hope for continued progress and unity among South Africans.
National Progress


The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) recently unveiled its highly anticipated report, the 2023 South African Reconciliation Barometer survey. This comprehensive study delves into the state of reconciliation within the country, shedding light on both the strides made and the persistent challenges encountered in fostering unity among South Africans.

Over the span of two decades, the Reconciliation Barometer has been a beacon, offering insights into the nation’s journey toward reconciliation. According to the IJR, this year’s findings reveal a nuanced landscape, showcasing both remarkable advancements and entrenched hurdles on the path to national unity.

The survey, drawing responses from over 2,000 South Africans, meticulously dissected opinions across six fundamental dimensions: Political culture, Inclusion, Social cohesion, Apartheid legacy, Racial reconciliation, and Perceptions of change. This extensive inquiry highlighted key areas warranting immediate attention and action from government, civil society organizations, and citizens alike.

One of the stark revelations of the report is the prevalent skepticism regarding improvements in economic inequality, employment opportunities, and personal safety since the nation’s transition to democracy. However, there remains a palpable optimism regarding future enhancements, particularly in fostering better social relationships.

Economic inequality has consistently emerged as a critical source of division in the country, persisting since the inception of the Reconciliation Barometer in 2003. Regrettably, it is also perceived as one of the least improved aspects since the advent of democracy in 1994, as stated by the IJR.

The findings underscore a disconcerting lack of trust and confidence in national leadership and institutions. Issues such as power outages, soaring living costs, widespread poverty, inequality, and unemployment have fueled disillusionment, hindering progress toward reconciliation, social cohesion, and stability in South Africa.

Dismal statistics reveal the extent of public discontent:

  • 81% feel national leaders are detached from ordinary citizens.
  • 79% lack trust in leadership to do what is right.
  • Only 33% express confidence in parliament and the legal system.
  • 35% have faith in the president.
  • An overwhelming 82% believe corrupt officials often escape consequences.
  • 74% doubt the genuine political will to combat corruption.
  • Merely 19% anticipate an improvement in corruption within the next 2-3 years.

However, amid these challenges, there are glimpses of progress in certain domains, described as “clouds on the horizon” by the IJR. Moderate strides have been observed in political engagement, racial relations, and post-apartheid reconciliation.

Encouraging trends amidst these challenges include:

  • A growing sense of responsibility among citizens for political participation.
  • Increased inclination toward informed decision-making and voting.
  • Growing interracial socialization, with over 40% regularly interacting with people of other races.
  • Optimism regarding the ongoing need for reconciliation and a belief in its attainability.

Furthermore, areas where significant strides have been made, labeled as “the sun shines in Mzansi” by the IJR, encompass national identity, acknowledging apartheid’s historical injustices, and the pursuit of unity.

The survey reveals heartening sentiments:

  • 85% perceive being South African as a crucial facet of their identity.
  • 79% acknowledge apartheid as a crime against humanity, emphasizing support for victims of human rights abuses.
  • 77% believe in the unifying factors outweighing divisive elements.
  • A resounding 75% express a desire for a more united nation, with 72% believing it’s an achievable goal.

In conclusion, the report underscores the urgent need for concerted efforts to address the formidable challenges impeding reconciliation in South Africa. The IJR emphasizes the necessity for an inclusive, equitable economy, along with the imperative task of rebuilding trust in government, leadership, and among citizens themselves. Sustaining and advancing the progress made in reconciliation demand collective and dedicated endeavors to surmount the obstacles standing in the way of a more unified nation.

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