For two decades, South Africa has been grappling with the agonizing triple challenges of poverty, unemployment, and inequality. President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address in February 2015 called upon the nation to be united in advancing economic freedom. Most South Africans would acknowledge that despite gains in political freedom, much remains to be done to overcome poverty and bring economic justice to the Rainbow Nation.
A new Afrobarometer survey shows that unemployment remains the most important problem for government to address, cited as one of their three top priorities by nearly three-quarters of the survey respondents. In a list of citizen priorities that is largely unchanged from Afrobarometer’s previous survey in 2011, unemployment is followed by housing, crime, education, poverty, and corruption.
Yet on most of these high-priority issues, large majorities of South Africans say their government has performed “fairly badly” or “very badly” – an assessment that parallels increasing public dissatisfaction with elected leaders, especially President Zuma (see dispatch No. 65 and dispatch 66). Notable exceptions are majority approval of government performance in the areas of welfare distribution, uniting the country, and meeting educational needs.
Figure: Disapproval of government performance | by party affiliation | South Africa