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1.1 Introduction and objectives of the study
1.2 Methodology and implementation of the study
1.3 Use of quotations in this report
1.4 Report structure
1.1 Introduction and objectives of the study
This study provides a grassroots view of where South Africa stands in 2013 in fulfilling the aspirations embodied in the Constitution and the democratic system that was established almost 20 years ago.
It offers revealing bottom-up perspectives on how South Africans feel about the human rights they enjoy and see others around them enjoying, the political system and how it works for them, how political leaders are faring in representing them, and the forms of public participation that work for them, or not. This report offers the latest insights into how South Africans relate to the political parties that represent them. The voices in this study illuminate the choices that South African citizens will encounter when they go to the polls in 2014.
Using in-depth qualitative research, the study reaches beyond statistics and explores what lies in the hearts and minds of citizens. In typical focus group style, the report uses the words of the focus group participants themselves. The quotations in this report bring their experiences and perceptions to life. The analysis represents the accumulated voices of these citizen-participants stating and arguing their experiences of democracy.
1.2 Methodology and implementation of the study
Focus groups are a valued research tool to gain in-depth understanding of current and unfolding phenomena, such as democracy and the experiences of human rights in South Africa. The focus groups in this study comprised 6–9 participants, all carefully recruited in line with pre-set demographic and geographic criteria. Both the relative participant homogeneity and the style of moderation were designed to facilitate relaxed and non-threatening discussions. Participants were encouraged to feel free to share their experiences and insights, and the discussions reflected this. They were informed that there were no right or wrong answers and they should share their experiences, perceptions and insights. Participation was voluntary and overwhelmingly enthusiastic.
Ensuring the demographic and geographic design of focus groups in this study was of the utmost importance. The 27 groups – a high number by the standards of focus group research – provided excellent national coverage. The project complied with rigorous recruitment criteria (reflected in Table 1). Strict adherence to the recruitment schedules ensured that there were no ‘groupies’ (people who regularly attend focus groups), besides bringing participants of a range of geographic and demographic backgrounds (gender, race, age group, language, living standards measure (LSM) status, unemployment status) into the groups. Both employed and unemployed citizens were recruited.
Responsibilities in the implementation of the study were:
- Susan Booysen designed the discussion guide, with valuable comment and suggestions from the Freedom House Johannesburg office staff and Ipsos.
- Group profiles were determined jointly by Booysen, Freedom House and Ipsos.
- Ipsos, Booysen and Freedom House conducted the moderator briefings.
- Ipsos implemented the fieldwork.
- The whole team conducted quality checks. These included the observation of groups that had formal observation facilities and the careful scrutiny of recordings and transcriptions of the rest of the discussions. Ipsos did the translations and transcriptions.
- Booysen was responsible for data analysis and report-writing, with report structuring and editing assistance by Freedom House’s team in Johannesburg and Washington, DC.
Experienced and professional moderators conducted the discussions. They were selected to be demographically as close as possible to the group characteristics and adhered to a detailed discussion guide (see Appendix A for a synopsis of the discussion guide). Discussions were audio-taped, with participants’ permission. The recordings were transcribed and translated (where applicable). The discussions lasted about two and a half hours, with a break and refreshments. All participants received a modest honorarium, as token of appreciation for the time they gave. Where required, Ipsos provided transport to and from the discussion venues.
Ipsos put a range of quality control measures in place to monitor all aspects of focus group rollout. Ipsos, along with the author-analyst and Freedom House, continuously monitored project implementation.
The discussions were conducted in the predominant language of each region, with English often mixed in. Black-African groups form the large majority (17 out of 27) of the project’s focus groups. Several groups of younger ages mixed participants from the four conventional racial categories (Johannesburg and Bloemfontein). In Cape Town the one Afrikaans language group was mainly colored with some white participants. In Pretoria the Afrikaans language group was white-only, in Pietermaritzburg the white-only group was of English background, and the Durban group was Indian-only. In more detail:
- The groups were spread out across the nine provinces. Care was taken to disperse the groups across regions within provinces and not to settle for easily accessible and clustered selections (see map, p. viii). The groups covered metropolitan, city, urban, small-town and rural settings.
- Demographically, the class breakdown of the groups shows that eight groups (Khayelitsha, Dysselsdorp, Garies, Barberton, Viking, Jozini, Whittlesea and Zeerust) were in the low LSM1–4 category. Ten groups (Heidedal, Theunissen, Thokoza, Diepsloot, Hammanskraal, Makana, Richards Bay, Johannesburg, Dispatch and Sannieshof) were in the mid-class categories of LSM5–7. Nine groups were in the upper class of LSM8–10, but four of them (Cape Town mixed-minority [Cape Town-MM], Modimolle, Pietermaritzburg and Bloemfontein) actually straddled the middle and upper groups, running on LSM5–9. The Executive group focused exclusively on the LSM10 category.
- In terms of age, the youth groups (ages 18–25) were the seven groups of Diepsloot, Emalahleni, Dysselsdorp, Richards Bay, Pilot, Bloemfontein and Makana.
- Eleven of the groups were mixed-gender. This was amongst younger people in modern or urban settings where mixed-gender status is unlikely to impact discussions. Seven further groups were female only and nine male only. The slight imbalance is due to the additional Free State group and the decision to make the Executive group male only. In total, just under half of participants were women.
1.3 Use of quotations in this report
This report is about the voices of ‘ordinary’ South Africans. The focus group data enabled the researcher-analyst to ‘step into the minds’ of South Africans and describe trends based on the participants’ own words. The report uses direct quotations to illustrate the arguments, reproducing as many as possible without unnecessary duplication. When similar quotations appear it is to indicate the spread of perceptions across geographic and demographic boundaries.
The experiences, observations and words of South Africans, across a wide range of geographic areas and demographics, thus stand central to the analysis. The quotations are given as close as possible to the original words, which often had to be translated to English. The participants’ words are not censored or filtered. Because the quotes try to capture participants’ words as closely as possible, grammatical errors do appear. When the report only captures a snippet of avalanches of comments, repeated in several groups, the analysis notes this. The reported quotations remain by and large only a small segment of the totality of quotations on the theme at hand. They are selected, however, because one individual or group’s words depict the broader trends.
All quotations are referenced according to the geographic location of the group. The full group profiles concerning race, gender, age, language of the discussion LSM appear in Table 1. The report only uses the racial designation of a group when it is particularly relevant, for example when the quotation is about racial identity or opportunities that are associated with a particular group. When words are reported without attached designation, it means that there was general convergence across demographic or geographic divides.
As the bulk of the groups were black-African, the voices recorded largely depict their sentiments and experiences. When distinct voices emerged from racial minority groups, a particular gender, age group or political group, these are noted. Because the project was composed to render a national picture (with each province, for example, hosting group profiles that are not necessarily statistically representative), it is not possible to make comparisons based on gender, race, age group or province. Moreover, focus group methodology does not deliver quantitative results to specific questions posed. Thus, for instance, it is not possible to state the percentage of South African citizens that will vote in 2014; however the report does describe a general trend across all groups that reveals not just strong support for voting but the reasons behind it.
1.4 Report structure
Human rights and rule of law are the thread that runs through the report and analysis (see Diagram 1).
- Section 2 assesses the realization of human rights in the lives of ‘ordinary’ South Africans, through the narrative of experiences and perceptions of change in the community. Much of the focus is thus on government delivery on its governance and human rights mandates.
- Section 3 focuses on how participants view the political system, along with its operations and leaders. It considers how South Africans see their leaders working for them. Inequality before the law features centrally, with the political class in command and receiving priority treatment. At its core the section addresses perceptions of how functional the democratic political system is.
- Section 4 deals with South Africans’ views of public participation. What do they do to engage the political system, to have responsive and accountable government? Participants reflect on whether governance processes work, and whether they channel their participation into non-institutionalized (but generally accepted) forms of protest. The section includes perspectives on the mass media as extensions of citizen voice.
- Section 5 explores citizen perceptions of elections, voting behavior and political parties. It investigates whether citizens continue to accept voting to express their political needs. It notes possible disaffection from or disappointment with the ANC. The continuous systemic channeling of such sentiments is important to the vitality of the democratic political system.
Democracy, human rights and rule of law in South Africa across domains of human rights, political system, citizen action and elections
 Face-to-face recruitment was done for all groups with the exception of the Executive group, which was done telephonically. Recruitment was typically carried out outside community halls, shopping centres and intersections. Within rural areas recruitment also happened at small local shops within the given community. For metro and urban areas participants were recruited from areas surrounding the location of the group (see Table 1) while for rural groups, respondents were drawn from that specific area. The recruitment for metro and urban areas was confirmed a week in advance while recruiters for rural areas conducted their work 3–4 days before the scheduled group.