The only public institution in which more than half of the population has confidence in is the SABC, according to the 2017 South African Reconciliation Barometer released on Tuesday.

The survey by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR) was conducted through face-to-face interviews with 2,400 South Africans, 18 and older, in all the provinces. The survey utilised a questionnaire comprising closed-ended responses.

It showed that South Africans in general do not trust state institutions. However, in what is likely to come as a surprise to many, the SABC was the only institution in which more than half (50.7%) the respondents had confidence. The public broadcaster also happened to be the most trusted institution during the previous survey, in 2015.

The SABC has been in the news for all the wrong reasons in recent years and is facing its worst financial crisis yet. It is still waiting for a R3bn government guarantee.

SABC staff plan to down tools on Thursday after wage talks broke down between unions and management. The Broadcasting, Electronic, Media & Allied Workers Union (Bemawu) informed members on Monday that it had given the SABC notice of its intention to strike. The union is demanding a 10% increase‚ while management is offering 4.5%.

The reconciliation barometer also showed that Parliament attracted a low confidence score of 30.3%, while legal and judicial institutions — such as the Constitutional Court and the legal system in general — attracted more confidence than elected representatives.

"The decrease in confidence in Parliament is of particular concern. If citizens do not trust the preeminent legislative body that represents their interests, it has significant implications for trust in the democratic system more broadly," the report said.

Only 56.1% of South Africans agreed that the country had made progress in reconciliation since the end of apartheid. The "gap between rich and poor" is also ranked as the biggest source of division by survey respondents.

"From [this] … finding, coupled with the findings that ‘forgiveness’, ‘moving on’ and ‘peace’ are most commonly associated with the concept of reconciliation, we can infer that many South Africans feel that forgiving, moving on and peace are difficult amid the realities of poverty and inequality … This does not mean that there is no desire for reconciliation, but that there is a certain societal context limiting the reconciliation process," noted the IJR.

Just more than 36% of South Africans felt that white people held the most economic power, while almost 28% thought that black South Africans had the most influence. A further 15.7% thought that a small group of elites from various race groups commanded the most economic power.

Furthermore, more than half of South Africans (51.5%) were of the view that the majority of black people had benefited the most in terms of political power since 1994.

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