A diverse, socially cohesive society with a common national identity



In 2030, South Africa will be a society where opportunity is not determined by race or birthright, and where citizens accept they have both rights and responsibilities. We will be a united, prosperous, non-racial, non-sexist and democratic South Africa.

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Nation building – Downloads

Find out more about the National Development Plan.

National Development Plan – full text
National Development Plan – Chapter 15: Nation building and social cohesion
Medium-Term Strategic Framework 2014 to 2019 – Outcome 14: Nation building and social cohesion
Infographic: Nation building

Nation building – The vision

The National Development Plan’s vision is that, in 2030, South Africans are more conscious of the things they have in common than their differences. Their lived experiences cut across the divisions of race, gender, space and class. The nation is more accepting of peoples’ multiple identities.

In this South Africa there is:

• Broad-based knowledge about and support for a set of values shared by all South Africans including the values contained in the Constitution.
• An inclusive society and economy, with equality of opportunity and outcomes.
• Increased interaction between South Africans from different social and racial groups.
• Strong leadership across society and a mobilised, active and responsible citizenry.

Nation building – The challenges

Despite progress since 1994, South African society remains divided. The privilege attached to race, class, space and gender has not yet been fully reversed.

There have been rapid improvements in access to basic services, but their quality continues to be affected by who you are and where you live.


• Life expectancy at birth for white women is still more years than that of black women.
• African graduates find it harder to be absorbed into the labour market even with engineering degrees from the former white university institutions than their white counterparts.
• Attitudinal, physical and communication barriers continue to exclude and marginalise persons with disabilities.

Opportunity continues to be largely defined by race, gender, ability, geographic location, class and linguistic background. Unemployment is particularly high among black youth.

The economy has not yet generated new opportunities in the form of employment and openings for new enterprises, on the hoped-for scale. Women still suffer from discrimination in both the education system and in the labour market.

Apartheid spatial patterns mean limited opportunity for sharing of space across race and class and thus there is still limited interaction across race. Another legacy of apartheid spatial logic is that the poor often live far from places of work. This makes it harder to find work and raises the cost of transport.

The social, psychological and geographic elements of apartheid continue to shape the lives and outlook of many South Africans, even though apartheid no longer exists on the statute books.

It is this inherited psyche of racial, gender and sexual orientation prejudices and stereotypes, breakdown in values, inequality of opportunity and massive poverty, as well as competition for scarce resources, which helps fuel racism, xenophobia and gender-based violence. Part of the apartheid inheritance psyche is a tendency for the populace to abdicate responsibility for their wellbeing to the government.

Open displays of opulence are a growing scourge in South African society. Their offensiveness is particularly marked because of South Africa’s high levels of inequality and unemployment. Society should have balanced and appropriate incentive systems commensurate with the individual’s contribution to society. Excessive displays of wealth as well as unjustified differentials in income distort these incentives.


Nation building – Action required

South Africa cannot achieve unity and social cohesion without reducing the gaps between rich and poor, black and white, women and men, city and country. In doing this, it is necessary to recognise the historical obligation for redress, to correct the wrongs of the past and to affirm the historically disadvantaged.

Immediate actions are reducing inequality of opportunity, redress, enabling the sharing of common space, and awakening the populace to speak when things go wrong and be active in their own development. We must also promote knowledge of the Constitution and foster the values it contains.

Without unity, the nation cannot hope to correct the wrongs of the past. Without correcting the wrongs of the past, unity would be superficial.

Specific action includes:

• The Preamble of the Constitution to be read in a language of choice at schools assemblies.
• The bill of responsibilities to be used at schools and prominently displayed in each work place.
• Sustained campaigns against racism, sexism, homophobia and xenophobia.
•. The Commission of Gender Equality and the ministry should audit and deal with gaps in legislation and develop joint targets, indicators and timelines for monitoring and evaluating progress towards gender equality.
• Employment Equity to continue and new models of BEE to de explored to improve the efficacy of the programme. Clear targets should be set for broadening economic participation, enhancing predictability for economic actors.
• Improving public services and spaces as well as building integrated housing and sport facilities in communities to ensure sharing of common spaces across race and class.
• Incentivising the production and distribution of all art forms that facilitate healing, nation building and dialogue.
• All South Africans to learn at least one indigenous language, business to encourage and reward employees who do so.
• Promote citizen participation in forums such as Integrated Development Plans, Ward Committees, School Governing Boards and Community Policing Forums.
• Work towards a social compact for growth, employment and equity.


Nation building – Key medium-term goals for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following sub-outcomes to achieve a diverse, socially cohesive society with a common national identity.

• Knowledge of the Constitution and fostering Constitutional values
• Equalising opportunities, promoting inclusion and redress
• Promoting social cohesion across society through increased interaction across race and class
• Promoting active citizenry and broad-based leadership
• Achieving a social compact that will lay the basis for equity, inclusion and prosperity for all.

Nation building – Key medium-term targets for 2019

South Africa’s Medium Term Strategic Framework (2014 to 2019) identifies the following targets to achieve a diverse, socially cohesive society with a common national identity..

14 nation building targets

Researched, edited and compiled by Mary Alexander
Updated December 2015