Report says South Africa is not awash with racial friction

Durban- South Africa (PANA) -- For every South African who thinks race relations have deteriorated in the past few years, there are two who think they have improved.
And only one person in 20 believes that race is a cause of problems they have in interacting with other people.
Accordingly, the country is not "awash with racial friction".
These are among the key findings of a nationwide survey of 'Race Relations and Racism in Everyday Life' published by the South African Institute of Race Relations.
Designed to take stock of the state of race relations in the country as delegates from around the world congregate in Durban for the UN World Conference against Racism which began Friday, the survey was conducted by the institute's vice-president, Professor Lawrence Schlemmer.
Another key finding was that although 59 percent of South Africans think racism is still a serious problem, only relatively small numbers are able to cite examples of "racial affront or insult".
The survey involved face-to-face interviews with 2,144 people in a representative sample drawn from nine socio-economic groups, stretching from deep rural areas to the cities.
It embraced not only people of all races but also farmers and farmworkers, residents in informal housing, hostel residents, people living in former 'group areas', and city and suburban dwellers.
Interviews were conducted in home languages or languages of choice.
The survey also showed that South Africa was a deeply stressed society.
Almost two thirds of people - actually 65 percent - trust other South Africans less than they did a few years ago.
However, feelings of distrust are seldom based on race.
Crime, corruption, and political tension are much greater contributory factors in causing South Africans to distrust one another.
In the workplace, wages are ten times more likely to be a cause of dissatisfaction than "treatment by employer", which, according to the survey, could be a "rough surrogate for discrimination".
More than half of all South Africans (54 percent) are dissatisfied with their opportunities for personal progress, but only 11 percent of those who are dissatisfied see racial discrimination as the reason.
Education is seen as the single most important factor in making progress in a career.
The Chief Executive of the Institute, John Kane-Berman, said the results of the survey were encouraging in showing the distance South Africa had successfully travelled in the short space of seven years since the advent of democracy.
"Perhaps this success has not been as widely acknowledged as it might be", Kane-Berman said.
"While it is disturbing that many people still see racism as a problem, it is gratifying that relatively few have apparently had nasty personal experiences.
"From time to time the media report incidents of raw racism, including violent attack, but the survey suggests that, ugly as these are, they are exceptions to general experience.
That in itself is excellent news", he noted.

01 september 2001 10:41:00

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