The State of the Nation Address (SONA) is to be delivered by the President at the annual opening of Parliament and focuses on current political and socio-economic state of the nation based on government assessments. But, we cannot assume that the address fully incorporates the views of the ordinary people of South Africa. Consequently, there is a gap during the SONA event in terms of the articulation of the views of the wider South African society. IJR’s People’s State of the Nation Assessment (PSONA) report seeks to fill this gap by collating the public opinion perceptions of ordinary South Africans, who were surveyed by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) through the South African Reconciliation Barometer (SARB) and the Afrobarometer. The report focuses on four key areas: politics, the economy, society and international relations

What the assessment tells us:

  • There is a need for policy clarity. Over the past two years, government has used the term ‘radical economic transformation’ in different contexts. It is now time to give it content and clarify its alignment with the NDP. A weak, unequal economy inhibits nation-building and threatens long-term social stability.  More than six in 10 South Africans (61, 4%) believe that national reconciliation is impossible for as long as those disadvantaged under apartheid remain poor.
  • Ethical and responsible leadership is key. In a fragile economic climate, where households are likely to experience increased material pressure, the potential for deepened social polarisation exists. Factional politics within the ruling party can exacerbate this, but so too can be the opportunistic exploitation of critical national issues by opposition parties on the left and the right of the ANC.
  • A social compact, between government, business, and labour to accelerate growth should become an urgent priority. Great strides were made in 2016, but mostly in response to crises. The same collaboration is required to forge agreement on mid- to long-term responses to the country’s developmental challenges
  • In a fast-changing international environment, South Africa must remain assertive on the global stage in order to ensure that a Pan-African voice is present in the shaping of a new global order, which include reform of key institutions, such as the UN.
  • Although not the only contributing factor, material deprivation can become a trigger for the unaddressed question of xenophobia. In a context of growing unemployment and higher costs of living, this threat cannot be ignored. More attention needs to be paid to South African attitudes to migrants, particularly from the rest of the continent.

For more information and interviews, please contact:

Mr. Jan Hofmeyr, Head of the Policy and Research Programme, jhofmeyr@ijr.org.za (the state of politics and the economy)
Ms. Elnari Potgieter, Project Leader for the South Africa Reconciliation Barometer, epotgieter@ijr.org.za (the state of society)
Prof. Tim Murithi, Head of the Justice and Peacebuilding Programme, tmurithi@ijr.org.za (state of international relations)
Mr. Sibusiso Nkomo, Afrobarometer Communications Coordinator for Southern Africa at IJR, snkomo@ijr.org.za (Afrobarometer data).

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