Futhi Ntshingila, Sunday Times (ZA), August 20, 2006
44% of survey subjects claim to have suffered at their hands
Africans are South Africa’s worst racists — and fellow Africans are their main victims.
These are the findings of a nationwide survey conducted by Plus 94 Research, a marketing research company. An affiliate of the Gallup group, it interviewed 2000 people about their experiences at shops, hospitals, transport outlets, municipal offices, financial institutions and other places.
They were asked if they had been discriminated against because of their race in the past year, and if so, where and the race of the person who discriminated against them.
Almost half of the respondents said they had received racially inspired “prejudicial” treatment in hospitals and clinics and 39% in shops. Twenty-six percent said they had been ill-treated by municipalities because of their race, and 32% said they had been treated in this manner by government agencies such as the police and the Home Affairs Department.
The survey found that even though African people were most likely to be victimised by other races, almost half of South Africans had experienced discrimination at the hands of Africans.
Some 44% of respondents claimed to have experienced an attitude from Africans they believed bordered on racial discrimination, against 27% who had received similar treatment by whites when seeking out services in public places.
The chief executive of Plus 94, Sifiso Falala, said the survey found that Africans also felt they were unlikely to be offered decent service by African employees in both public and private institutions.
“Blacks are more likely to be ill-treated on race grounds, but blacks are also more likely to treat other blacks worse than they treat people of other races,” said Falala.
The results showed that 38% of all respondents said they had experienced “discrimination” from people of all race groups in these institutions, and 45% claimed to have experienced discrimination particularly from black Africans.
Falala said the survey was aimed at measuring overt resentment, where people deliberately treated others in a way that was prejudicial and could be perceived as racism.
“What I found most interesting was that black people were the largest group with this problem, both as victims and as perpetrators.
“This is something that people need to know because it’s a reality for many people when dealing with a security guard or a bank.”
Zamile Mbanjwa, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, said the findings were consistent with her recent experience at a Ladysmith restaurant.
“I wasn’t served because the waiter made it his policy not to serve black people because they don’t tip.”
The poll found that Indians were the most likely recipients of racial hostility from Africans, with three out of four Indian respondents claiming first-hand experience of this.
The sentiment was most obvious in Durban and academic and activist Ashwin Desai said this was not surprising. “You tend to compare yourself with somebody across the road from you. Therefore the conflict between Africans and Indians happens ironically in places where they live next to each other,” he said.
Institute for Justice and Reconciliation director Professor Charles Villa-Vicencio said: “In South Africa we need to deal not only with the bland issue of black-white relations … but the more subtle dimensions of ethnicity, culture and identity.”
Unisa’s executive director of research, Professor Tinyiko Maluleke, said: “It’s what apartheid did to people. One of the things that racism has done to black people is make them devalue themselves and often this is shown in the way they relate to other black people.”
Human Sciences Research Council executive director Professor Adam Habib said issues of class and racism often overlapped. “For example, many African people may be supportive of affirmative action while white people may not. So does this then make them racist?”
Academic Dan Ncayiyana said racism was as much a matter of substance as it was a matter of perception. “Thus all of us should be sensitive to what we say or do as it can be perceived as being racist. Correcting the errors of the past may also be construed as racist.”
But National House of Traditional Leaders chief executive Abraham Sithole questioned the findings: “Traditionally blacks have never shown any racial hostilities against others … In fact, how can blacks be regarded as racist when we have welcomed other groups such as coloureds and Indians?”