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(Written for and first published in The Media)

 South Africa’s long-established Indian population lends a very different face and atmosphere to KZN. 840,000 of South Africa’s 1,2 million Indians live in KZN (and most of the rest in Gauteng). Indians count for around 2,3% of SA’s but almost 8% of the KZN population and there are almost twice as many Indians as whites in the province. KZN is, of course the home province of the Zulu nation but that could be the subject of another article!

As a group they are relatively happy with their lives in South Africa but are currently a lot less confident about the future of the country which is reflected in a below average commitment to SA. Despite this only 14% would consider leaving SA to live or work elsewhere and most of these feel that they would be likely to return. 9 out of 10 described themselves first and foremost as South Africans (but interestingly they identified with South Africa rather than Africa).

South Africa has provided them with opportunities to improve their status and standard of living – 9 out of 10 endorsed the possibility of starting out poor in this country, working hard and becoming rich. Considering that South Africa’s Indian population arrived in Natal in the 1860s as indentured labourers, this is what the country has enabled many to achieve. This opportunity for upward mobility is reinforced when 55% classify themselves as middle-class where their parents were more likely to have been working class. Similarly, they say that their standard of living is better than that of their parents and their longer-term optimism is evident from their belief that their children will enjoy a much better standard of living than they do. To facilitate achieving this goal 8 out of 10 say that they are prepared to make sacrifices now for the future.

South African Indians

Since they are more likely to have a job (employed or self-employed), 8 out of 10 said that they were able to rely on a regular household income. This translates into a greater sense of financial security and ability to plan, invest and save and is reflected in their extreme cautiousness about getting into debt and tendency to save for things they want rather than buy on credit. They appear to be much more likely shop where they know that prices are cheapest and appear and on the whole appear to be less brand and status conscious and less concerned about owning or showing off the latest technology (including cellphones). They are most likely to be living Durban’s suburbs and mainly in houses (18% in flats).

8 out of 10 believe “All South Africans can co-exist peacefully without losing their own cultural identity” and they are clearly secure in their own cultural milieu. 9 out of 10 have friends from other racial groups.  All say they speak English at home, that their children (when they have them) are educated in English. Almost all said that our sports teams should be selected ONLY on merit and ability and not by racial quotas.

South African Indians are clearly well assimilated into South African society and see themselves as South African while at the same time retaining their unique cultural traditions and heritage. Maybe their example provides insight for other South Africans to achieve the same… appreciate that you can be different while still belonging.  After all, our national motto is “Unity in Diversity”.  

futurefact has been surveying the attitudes and beliefs of South Africans since 1998. The findings presented above are from the futurefact survey conducted in late 2014, based on a probability sample of 3,048 adults aged 18 years and over, living in communities of more than 500 people throughout South Africa and 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