South Africa


After the looting: A snap survey reveals what South Africans think – and fear

After the looting: A snap survey reveals what South Africans think – and fear
The aftermath of protests and looting at Ndofaya Mall on 13 July 2021 in Soweto, Johannesburg. (Photo: Gallo Images / Papi Morake)

About 37% of South Africans polled are fearful of the future, while 21% despair and only 36% of South Africans are hopeful.


Ray Hartley and Greg Mills are with The Brenthurst Foundation. Henry Sands directs Sabi Strategy. 

A snap survey of South Africans conducted countrywide after the spate of looting which rocked the nation in the wake of the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma shows all races believed that the government’s response was too slow. 

The survey, conducted by The Brenthurst Foundation in association with Sabi Strategy, illustrates that more South Africans are fearful of the future than hopeful, with black South Africans the most fearful. Despair also outscored feeling “positive”, which came in lowest by some stretch.

Conducted telephonically among 1,605 respondents, the survey took place during the week of 21 July, and is weighted according to national statistics on gender, age, race and province.

Some 37% of South Africans polled are fearful of the future, while 21% despair and only 36% of South Africans are hopeful. For those that despair or fear about South Africa’s future, political leadership and the economic situation are the main reasons. A total of 39% of black South Africans are fearful, and just 36% hopeful. Coloureds and whites were more hopeful than fearful, at 29%/43% and 27%/31% respectively, while Indians were the least hopeful and most fearful at 48%/30%. 

It found that the government’s response to the crisis was rated marginally more effective than ineffective, but these scores paled against the widespread belief that the government had reacted too slowly. This appears to back up the view that the security forces were not prepared for the widespread looting because of poor intelligence. 

A majority of respondents in KZN (64%) and Gauteng (76%), however, believed the government’s response to the unrest and looting was either too slow or ineffective.

Perceptions of which party responded better to the events largely mirror demographic voting patterns, with the ANC rated as the best among black South Africans (37%), and the DA as most effective among coloureds, Indians and whites (28%, 20% and 31% respectively).

Support for former Zuma and the Economic Freedom Fighters’ Julius Malema appeared to have plummeted, while support for President Cyril Ramaphosa was highest, followed by support for the DA’s John Steenhuisen.

Ramaphosa logged positive scores among every racial group, including 60% favourability among whites, and 58% among black South Africans, scoring 57% favourability overall among all race groups. He was familiar to all those polled. 

Zuma and Malema were rated negatively by all race groups, scoring 49% and 50% unfavourability respectively among South Africans, suggesting very low support for the radical redistributive policies and corruption with which they have been associated. This may also explain Ramaphosa’s positive score. Zuma and Malema’s support bottomed among whites at a 69% and 91% unfavourability rating. 

Among those polled in KZN, however, Zuma enjoyed a 54% favourability rating but a 58% unfavourability rating in Gauteng, while Malema polled 36% and 52% unfavourability scores in the respective two provinces.  

Steenhuisen scored overwhelmingly positively among whites (55% favourability) and to a lesser extent among Indians and coloureds, but had a high (32% unfavourable to 8% favourable) negative rating amongst black South Africans. His biggest challenge seems to be that many (43%) of those polled were unfamiliar with him.

Overall, 41% of South Africans say they were directly affected by the unrest and looting in the week of 12 July. Those affected by the unrest indicated the main issues as food shortages and loss of employment.

Indians reported the highest response to being “directly affected” by the looting, reflecting the epicentre of the violence in KZN, followed by black South Africans. Blacks reported being directly affected more than twice as much as whites, who reported being least affected, giving the lie to the view that the looting was racially redistributive.

Blacks reported being most affected by food shortages – again being more than twice as affected as whites. Black respondents were most affected by unemployment following the disruption.

Overall, the low government effectiveness rating (22%) and “too slow” rating (46%) should be troubling for the ANC. Similarly, the domination of the “effective response” by the DA among white (31% to ANC 6%), coloured (31% to 16%) and Indian (20% to 3%) voters is noteworthy.

Perhaps the most revealing issue, however, is in the survey of voting patterns. 

Excluding those who did not vote, with 70% of black South Africans owning up in the poll as having vote for the ANC in 2019, and 64% of whites, 43% of Indians and 57% of coloureds for the DA, the country would seem to be, more than a quarter century after 1994, racially polarised, though the multiracial support for Ramaphosa would seem to indicate this is somewhat dissipating, especially when compared to his predecessor. DM 


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    I doubt any of the ANC are surprised or care.

  • Hermann Funk says:

    I hope Ramaphosa reads this and finally starts taking action. His rating would soar.

  • Ian Wegerle says:

    Doing this along racial line is so pathetic. Are we not South African if we are not black?

  • Michael Stow says:

    Media is not a passive mirror reflecting truth, but rather an active agency shaping and reinforcing opinion through choosing to publish polls which support the gushing coverage by state and “free” press of candidates they endorse like CR17 and Biden – while banishing the likes of the DA and John Steenhuizen to virtual obscurity by a blackout of coverage.

    Any day of any week for over a decade, the so called “free press” and SABC have given up to 10 times more daily more coverage to the “swart gevaar” of Julius Malema and the EFF than the leader of the official opposition.

    2020 may go down in history as the year of more than one global farce. A concerted media funding campaign across Twitter, Facebook, Google and “mainstream” CNN decided the outcome of the elections of the largest supposed democracy on the planet – all in the name of the “best reasons”, of course, exploiting fear (of death), guilt, shame, and the race card.

    Many the time the CIA and Governments have played the same cards – the Arab spring and Libya for example was a prototype for social media; see where that road of “good” intentions lead to.

    We continue to live with the “swart gevaar” of joblessness for 27 years of ANC corruption which feeds the EFF, and despite the media’s attempts to vilify her. Hellen Zille’s voice echoes some truths. Why?

    Which cabinet heads “roll” with golden parachutes into ambassador posts is as important as the agenda, policy & competence of their replacements. SA await!

    • Steyn Grobler says:

      Ever heard of Occam’s Razor? Perhaps John, the DA (and Trump) should give the media something relevant to speak about?

      • Fanie Tshabalala says:

        Agree totally. The DA has so many good people and policies but they keep shooting themselves in the foot.

        • R S says:

          DA has stepped up recently. Steenhuisen’s response to being the first political leader to visit affected communities, changes to their social housing approach in Cape Town, and Steenhuisen acknowledging party compromises will need to be made to save SA are great signs of a party that’s maturing very quickly. Their optics are still not great, but if Steenhuisen can start getting airtime in more black communities, or enough black voters just stop voting, the DA may surprise us all.

          • Paddy Ross says:

            Some honest media coverage of John Steenhuisen and the DA by Daily Maverick and News24 would be welcome.

          • John Gosling says:

            He’s “applying his mind” that seems to take a little longer than usual – then again, he may be considering some sort of commission to “look into it”…

    • Glyn Morgan says:

      I agree 100%! The MEDIA has a lot to be ashamed of. It is time that the DA got the coverage it deserves. It IS the biggest opposition party, but the media ignores it. The collective media can apologize to Helen Zille and a few others for their brutal handling of insignificant tweets. Do we live in a democracy or some sort of PC prison?

  • Sandra Goldberg says:

    Over the past couple of weeks John Steenhuizen has appeared on television several times- and in each appearance he has given good sensible advice which is really what we need at this time, instead of vague promises and partisan speak-he has offered to help the government and above all ,he was on the ground almost immediately after the so-called insurrection.

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