Social Cohesion among South Africans, and between South Africans and Foreigners: Evidence from the South African Reconciliation Barometer 2017

The first section of this paper, discusses the question: What in your view are the underlying causes of ongoing stigma and discrimination experienced by migrant communities in South Africa? In this section, the author considers the state of social cohesion among South Africans, and how this may relate to sentiments regarding people from other (particularly African) nationalities. In section 2 the following question is discussed: What specific challenges do migrant communities face in relation to issues surrounding community integration? South Africans’ low level of trust in foreigners, and specifically African foreigners, brings with it a host of challenges to social cohesion. Discriminatory attitudes and xenophobic utterances are not uncommon in South Africa. These sentiments, however, take place in a very particular and broader societal context. In section 3 the question: What role, if any, have the media and public figures played in combatting or perpetuating stereotypes relating to migration and migrant communities? is addressed. Two important aspects of xenophobic rhetoric are discussed: (1) the actions and language of state institutions, and (2) the portrayal of African immigrants as the ‘other’ in popular culture. Section 4 discusses the question: What steps can be taken to continuously advance social integration and ultimately reduce inequalities associated with exclusion in national identity, and which actors are best placed to take these steps? Historical and current inequalities in South Africa will take many years to resolve, as will the building of trust between various groups. These processes take time and require the involvement of various sectors – business, government, nongovernmental organisations (NGOs), academia, and individuals.