Revisiting Reconciliation: The People’s View
From the time of the negotiated settlement, through the historic 1994 elections, the inauguration of President Mandela, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and talk of the ‘rainbow nation’, reconciliation has taken innumerable shapes and forms. Embraced by some and rejected by others, this notion has played a prominent role in South Africa’s transition. Almost a decade into South Africa’s democracy, there is a need to question whether the country is reconciling.
The Reconciliation Barometer project of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation is a longitudinal study that will monitor the reconciliation process. Through regular audits of actual social, political and economic transformation, bi-annual national surveys and ongoing anecdotal analysis of socio-political trends the Barometer seeks to find some answers to the question of how the country’s reconciliation process is going.
Conferring an admittedly broad, though pre-conceived and academically constructed definition of reconciliation on the Reconciliation Barometer survey instrument would have been inappropriate. As a result an exploratory round of the survey, investigating the opinions of ordinary South Africans about the meanings and forms of reconciliation, was undertaken. This data will be utilised to guide the development of the research instrument to be used in the bi-annual surveys. What follows is a descriptive analysis of this exploratory public opinion data.
Part of the exploratory survey examined the meanings and associations South Africans attribute to the concept of reconciliation, followed by an investigation as to where and how South Africans conceptualise the location and nature of the process of reconciliation. This was followed by an evaluation of both the nation’s leaders, as well as the country as a whole with regard to their performance in furthering the process of reconciliation. Previous research by the Institute has shown that the legacy of the past remains important for many South Africans. The survey also examined public opinion on South Africa’s attempt to deal with the unfinished business of its past.