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Life in South Africa can be likened to a roller-coaster ride.  We go from despair to elation.  Small things can make us really happy and excited and it takes a lot of big, bad things to get us down – that is why we are still here!  We are a resilient lot.  So, what are some of the good things about living in South Africa and what do we really value?

One thing we really value is our freedom. The belief that we have all benefitted from living in a democracy (this is particularly true of black South Africans), that our democratic foundations are strong and will endure and that we have the power to change things through our vote.  The fact that we can freely speak our mind on political issues is highly valued and thoroughly instilled in the South African psyche! 

Valuing democracy

Freedom of speech and press freedom are strongly entwined: for example three quarters of South Africans place their trust and confidence in journalists.  Given the current state of affairs at the SABC, it is reassuring to see the value people  of all races and social classes place on receiving the news (84%), a free press (93%) and their level of concern should the media be prevented from reporting on corrupt activities (90%)  and from exposing corruption among politicians and business-people (93%).  When ‘bad things’ happen, (like people protesting about lack of services or corruption), 93% of South Africans say they need the media to tell us about them.  The SABC plays a critical role in the lives of poorer and less privileged South Africans who cannot afford DSTV.  In most cases it is their only source of news.

South Africans value their right to a free media

On a personal level, futurefact finds that the majority of South Africans remain committed to this country and relatively confident about their future here – only 10% are seriously considering leaving. However, levels of happiness and confidence about the future are relatively low and seem indicative of a degree of disenchantment with everyday life in South Africa.

Commitment to SA remains but happiness and confidence less clear-cut

futurefact finds that very few people believe that things are getting better.  The following scorecard reveals that people are relatively positive about education and medical care but extremely critical and negative when it comes to corruption, crime and job creation and are clearly unhappy about political leadership, racism and electricity.

Attitudes to education, healthcare. racism, job creation, electricity

Source: futurefact 2015

Most people seem to have accepted that the best way to get things done is to do it themselves rather than wait for their leaders to provide. Most are also prepared to make sacrifices now for their future.  The mainly positive outlook is apparent from the finding that 7 out of 10 believe that: “it is possible to start out poor in this country, work hard and become rich” and also find it “very exciting to be living in a time of so much change”.  Religion continues to play an important role in the lives of 8 out of 10 South Africans.

So, it is a bit of a mixed bag – a clear case of the good among the not so good! While there are factors that are contributing to feelings of uncertainty and unease, it is also apparent that we share common values and beliefs on many critical and fundamental issues relating to our democratic rights and belief in freedom of speech and a free press. 

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from futurefact 2015/16 which is based on a probability sample of 3,015 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa - representing 22,8 million adults living in 9.4 million households. If you would like to find out more about futurefact and its extensive attitudinal databases please contact Jos Kuper 082 904 9939 or check out www.futurefact.co.za