South Africans would accept a good president of any race – IRR

Research shows that citizens do not care about skin colour of political leaders but that they’re competent

IRR research shows South Africans would accept a good president of any race

26 January 2023

Annual surveys conducted for the South African Institute of Race Relations (IRR) show clearly that ordinary South Africans do not care about the skin colour of political leaders – only that they are competent to do the job.

This contrasts with recent fearmongering by among others Andile Mngxitama that a white South African could be chosen as head of state by a national coalition after the 2024 election. Having individuals from racial minority groups participate in governance should not be – and in South Africa, is not – a concern in a mature constitutional democracy.

The IRR’s latest survey, conducted in 2022, shows that 73% of black, 86% of coloured, 83% of Indian, and 89% of white South Africans agree that South Africans of different races need one another for progress and that there should be full opportunity for people of all skin colours.

Additionally, 61% of black, 63% of coloured, 80% of Indian, and 76% of white South Africans agree that politicians’ constant talk of racism and colonialism amounts to nothing more than diverting attention from their (the politicians’) own failures in office.

IRR survey samples are demographically representative in terms of race, socioeconomic status, language, age, and geographic location. The 2022 survey was conducted in September and October 2022 among 607 participants and had a 5% margin of error.

Fearmongering about the possibility of South Africa ever again having a white president does not find purchase among ordinary South Africans.

‘The struggle against apartheid was a struggle against injustice, a lack of freedom, and racial oppression – a struggle of substance rather than appearances,’ says IRR Deputy Head of Policy Research, Martin van Staden.

‘South Africans care about competence, not colour,’ Van Staden added. ‘Experience around the world and across Africa has shown that competence and incompetence come in all colours: what matters is the merits of the particular individual concerned, their value system, their integrity, and their leadership qualities. This is what South Africans care about.’

The IRR has been conducting opinion polling for over a decade, confirming year upon year that relations between South Africans of different races are on the whole friendly and honourable. This despite the best efforts of opportunistic commentators to create the impression of widespread racial hostility.

Issued by Martin van Staden, Deputy Head of Policy Research, IRR, 26 January 2023