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Life in South Africa seems to be a series of peaks and troughs with the troughs seeming to be a lot more frequent and prolonged than the peaks. Recent articles for futurefact have focused on racism, xenophobia, fear of crime and of the police but a recent post on Facebook by Matt Suttner about his experience in Smithfield in December 2014 shows the positive effects of small actions.

While stopped for a rest during the long drive to the Eastern Cape, Matt noticed an old white man walking slowly along the opposite side of the road and stopping at the intersection. He didn’t give it another thought until a red bakkie: “screeched to a halt and the driver, a black guy in his 40’s got out and without hesitation walked across the road and carefully offered his hand to the old man, who accepted looking relieved – he not only helped him across the road but walked him all the way into the post office while his car’s engine ran”.

Reading this made one realise that there are many positive things happening in South Africa and that futurefact’s database is also rich in such examples.

Almost 9 out of 10 South Africans believe, like the man in the example above, that “small actions on my part can make a difference”.  In a similar vein 79% say that they are already actively involved in improving their own communities.

This is not just a localized sentiment. Almost all South Africans are proud to be South African.  Most believe that the country has the potential to become a wealthy and powerful nation and that their quality of life is much better here than it would be anywhere else.  Around 7 out of 10 are already actively involved in doing something to make SA a better place for all and are characterized by high levels of commitment to South Africa.  88% believe that they are generally “happy and positive”.  Given this it is hardly surprising that South Africans like to hear good news stories. 8 out of 10 feel that “the media in South Africa are much too negative about South Africa – they don’t show the good things that are happening”.  Similarly 9 out of 10 thought an initiative like Lead SA was a good idea.  South Africans want to find things that make them proud of their beloved country!

 The positive impact of small actions

So, we need to ask ourselves why Matt was so surprised by this kind, citizenly gesture when our results show that most of us are pre-disposed to behave in this way. Maybe it was because it was a case of attitudes actually translating into action – many people talk and have good intentions but like Matt it never occurs to them to make that transition from talk, or thought, to action.

As Matt Suttner concluded: “It’s easy to get swept up in all the negativity in SA at the moment, and certainly, we should be fighting back against anyone who tries to oppress or violate the rights of anyone else, but it’s good to step back once in a while and realise that there are good humans out there. One day maybe we can be like bakkie guy, and just look after each other".

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. 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