2018 South Africa’s largest Attitudinal Survey on the Constitution

The FHR conducted a baseline survey of socio-economic rights to assess awareness, access and attitudes towards human rights across the country under the Socio-Economic Justice for All Programme (SEJA). The survey was substantial in scale, with 24 897 interviews conducted across all the provinces and covering more than 4 165 sites. The survey found that the overall awareness of the Constitution had increased from 47% in 2011 to 51% today, however it also identified a number of challenges and areas for improvement. 

A report based on the baseline survey was launched on 26 March 2018 at Constitutional Hill, Braamfontein. Speakers included Deputy Minister of Justice and Constitutional Development Mr John Jeffery; the EU Ambassador to South Africa Mr Marcus Cornaro; and the EU Human Rights Envoy Mr Stavros Lambrinidis. Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Mr Andries Nel delivered a message of support and highlighted the importance of the baseline survey findings in assisting government to roll out services to the poor and vulnerable. The findings of the survey were presented by the then FHR Executive Director Ms Yasmin Sooka, the CEO of Citizens Surveys, Ms Waseelah Kaperrey who carried out the field work and Gerald O’ Sullivan, the former Manager at FHR. The respondents included former Statistician General Dr Pali Lehohla, the Chair of the South African Human Rights Commission Professor Bongani Majola and Dr Zaid Kimmie, Knowledge and Programme Manager, FHR.

Some of the findings from the survey include: 

  • The awareness of the Constitution and/or the Bill of Rights differs across sex, race and age cohorts, with men being more aware than women (55% v 47%) and Black Africans being the least aware (48%) and White the most aware (68%). Additionally, knowledge of the Constitution is highest among the young South Africans (18-29) and lowest among older respondents (60-70+). 
  • The survey showed that as poverty levels increased, levels of awareness of the Constitution and/or Bill of Rights decreased. 
  • 46% of all respondents in the survey claimed to have no access to Internet with women being more likely to have no access to the Internet than men, and with the number of those with no access increasing in rural areas.
  • 15% or adults could be termed ‘extremely poor’ as they were always or often deprived of basic necessities. In this context, significant differences have been observed across the race (2% of Indians/Asian and White versus 16% of Black African); geographic area (8% of those living in the metropolitan areas versus 22% of those living in the rural areas) and provinces (9% of those living in Gauteng versus 21% of those in the Eastern Cape).
  • The majority of respondents (57%) were not satisfied with the way that human rights are respected in the country. 28% said that they were not at all satisfied and 29% said that they were only slightly satisfied. 
  • 9% of respondents indicated that they had suffered discrimination in the past year, with 45% of these citing race as the main reason for discrimination and 27% citing language. 
  • One in six adult respondents (16%) believe that men are justified in hitting or beating their female partners and 41% of all respondents disagreed with the statement that “A married woman is allowed to refuse to have sex with her husband”.

The majority (56%) disagreed, but a significant proportion (44%) agreed, that “Foreigners should not be allowed to live in South Africa because they take jobs and benefits away from South Africans.”

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"“Equality means more than passing laws. The struggle is really won in the hearts and minds of the community, where it really counts.”

Barbara Gittings, American activist for LGBT equality