Towards a social cohesion barometer for South Africa

SOURCE: State of the Nation: South Africa: 2012-2013
OUTPUT TYPE: Chapter in Monograph
TITLE AUTHOR(S): J.Struwig, B.Roberts, S.Gordon, Y.D.Davids, M.M.Sithole, G.Weir-Smith, T.Mokhele
SOURCE EDITOR(S): F.Nyamnjoh, U.Pillay, G.Hagg, J.Jansen
DEPARTMENT: Developmental, Capable and Ethical State (DCES), Inclusive Economic Development (IED)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 7654
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/3039

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A familiar scene erupted on 14 August 2012 when 350 people of the Khayelitsha community in Cape Town came out in protest against poor housing and sanitation; stones were thrown and one man fatally injured. At the time of writing this chapter, this was the latest in a long list of incidents showcasing cracks in the sheen of the rainbow nation. These service delivery protests that have come into prominence in the last decade highlight the social divisions between the haves and the have-nots, the wealthy and the impoverished. In addition, the first half of 2012 also bore witness to a number of other incidents such as anti-immigrant protests in Gauteng, the Eastern Cape and elsewhere revealing the many other social divisions in South Africa. At a recent summit on social cohesion in Kliptown in Gauteng, the national government publicly identified social disunity as a challenge for the post-apartheid nation and social cohesion as one of the most important tasks of democratic governance in the country. The current democratically elected government is cognisant that the country's legacy of racial division remains unresolved and that class divisions, along with unresolved regional, ethnic and cultural divides and prejudices, brood beneath the national surface. These divisions have the potential to undermine the post-apartheid transition, threatening the nation's economic, political and social stability. As a result of this concern, the term 'social cohesion' has become common in South African development debates, featuring in government planning documents, academic panels, media debates and parliamentary hearings. The meaning and importance of the term is intuitively clear, connoting 'solidarity' and a safer, more caring, more equal and more harmonious society. The significance given to social cohesion at the national level is marred, however, by the inadequacy of the tools that academics, researchers and citizens have to measure cohesion in South African society. In an attempt to overcome this challenge and better understand the level of social disunity in the post-apartheid nation, the Programme to Support Pro-Poor Policy Development funded researchers at the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) to quantify and measure social cohesion in South Africa. This chapter is based on that research and presents a multidimensional tool for understanding and measuring social cohesion. The researchers hope the results will assist policymakers to track the success of existing programmes, to increase social cohesion and to highlight new areas that demand attention. In conducting this study, the researchers relied on literature as well as expert opinions to construct the conceptual framework. This framework will attempt to incorporate the complexities associated with the concept, whilst simultaneously providing a platform that could be used as a measurement framework.