The 2013 South African Reconciliation Barometer (henceforth SARB or Reconciliation Barometer) Report pays closer attention to the relationship between reconciliation, inequality and exclusion. It posits that reconciliation becomes difficult when social divisions are the result of unequal power relations that are being perpetuated in society. Reconciliation, exclusion and inequality are intimately tied to one another. More often than not an imbalance in power results in the material, symbolic, political and social exclusion of marginalised sectors of society.
Chapter one introduces the topic conceptually, demonstrating the need for us to engage with the relationship between reconciliation and economic exclusion under the adapted concept of radical reconciliation. Chapter two outlines the conceptual background and methodology of the SARB survey. The results to questions of unity, exclusion and division in South Africa are presented in chapter three. Key findings show that South Africans regard class to be the single biggest source of division, and the greatest impediment to reconciliation. Race relations, on the other hand, are seen to have improved since 1994, and race has shifted down to the 4th spot on the list of primary sources of division as rated by South Africans. However, further analysis demonstrates that in terms of the racial make-up of material exclusion, race and class remain intimately connected. It is therefore necessary to think more deeply about the nature of the relationship between these two sources of division.
Chapter four presents South Africans’ perceptions on political culture in relation to reconciliation. Key findings point to a significant decline in confidence and trust in governance institutions. In particular, results show a drop in citizen’s confidence in governance institutions, especially national government (10.8% decrease since 2012), as well as a 13% increase in the percentage of citizens who feel that government does not care about people like them. It is of interest to
note that these declines occurred in the wake of the African National Congress (ANC) National Conference that was held in Mangaung in December last year, and in the run-up to the 2014 general elections. The previous time that we witnessed declines of this magnitude was in 2008, following on the ANC’s Polokwane conference and leading up to the 2009 general elections. It is too soon to tell whether this is a pattern, but may suggest that citizen perception about the efficacy of national governance is being impacted by what happens in the country’s ruling party.
Chapter five focuses on issues of human security. Results show that the perceived dirth of employment opportunities poses a threat to the sense of economic security of South Africans. In general the majority of South Africans describe themselves as ‘poor’ or ‘struggling but getting by’. A key finding of this section and for our understanding of radical reconciliation, is that when white South Africans are asked to compare their living conditions with the rest of South Africa, those in the middle (5–6) living standards measure (LSM) groups report that there are no South Africans who are worse off than them. This seems to demonstrate a lack of awareness about the plight of black and coloured South Africans in the lowest four LSM groups. In terms of religion, it is positive to note that South Africans express high levels of human security in this area.
Chapter six reflects on findings on race relations and historical confrontation. Results on levels of interracial contact demonstrate that material exclusion obstructs interracial reconciliation, as the majority of poor South Africans in the lowest four LSM groups are black and isolated from an interracial middle and upper class. Furthermore, it appears that low levels of interracial reconciliation between poor black and middle/upper class white South Africans may in turn impact on differing levels of agreement with the need for economic redress and victim support. Findings show that while all South Africans share a similar desire to forgive the injustices of the past and move forward, white South Africans are 20–30% less likely to agree with the need to continue to support victims of apartheid or that economic re-dress is required for reconciliation.
The concluding chapter pulls out key insights from these findings for the concept of radical reconciliation, which focuses on the relationship between economic inclusion and reconciliation. First, for radical reconciliation to proceed, issues of economic justice need to be central to the process of reconciliation. Second, the concept requires us to think more carefully about the relationship between different vectors of exclusion, such as class and race, in South African society. Third, radical reconciliation critiques the divisive nature of political party discourse which is counterproductive to the aims of building citizen’s confidence and trust in governance institutions. Finally, radical reconciliation recognises that in order to address questions of economic injustice, we also need to build intersubjective awareness and social relationships across intersecting race and class boundaries.