WORKERS WITHOUT WORK:  Desperate for jobs yet with little hope of securing one, the workers of SA are taking their plight into their own hands and are expecting answers as municipal elections approach. Picture: SUPPLIED
Workers without work. Picture: SUPPLIED

THE majority of South Africans feel their financial situation has either deteriorated or stayed the same over the past year, and that it is unlikely to improve over the next year, a survey by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation shows.

The institute surveyed just more than 2,000 adults of all races late last year and 30% indicated that at some point during the previous year, they did not have food to eat, while 41% noted that they had not had access to clean running water.

The survey results were released in Cape Town on Wednesday.

More than two-thirds (67.4%) of South Africans felt that their personal financial situation had either stayed the same or worsened a year prior to the survey, and just more than half (54%) felt that it would remain unchanged in the 12 months following it.

SA is facing an economic downturn and its worst drought in 23 years. Statistics SA said on Wednesday consumer inflation worsened to 6.2% year on year in January, compared with 5.2% in December. This reflects a breach of the Reserve Bank’s target range of between 3% and 6%.

According to the Institute of Justice and Reconciliation, given this generally negative sentiment within the context of an ailing economy, the challenge for nation-building had become increasingly difficult.

The survey showed that a majority of South Africans regarded inequality as the primary source of social division in the country. About 67% of respondents felt that income inequality had either worsened or stayed the same since 1994. Roughly 61% of respondents indicated that the economic situation of their families had either deteriorated or stayed the same since the dawn of democracy.

"Our pursuit of a reconciled society will, therefore, remain a deferred dream for as long as inherited social inequities persist," said Jan Hofmeyr, who heads the Policy and Analysis Programme at the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation.

"Reconciliation is about more than just the achievement of a nonracial society — it is also about the restoration of dignity. This calls for a state that is geared towards an equitable distribution of resources and protection of the poor.

"In the short-to medium term, social tensions will have to be managed responsibly. In the longer term we will have to accept that without development, the dream of national reconciliation will remain just that," Mr Hofmeyr said.