Social cohesiveness is the idea that a nation-state’s citizens share a moral community, allowing them to trust one another. Social inequality, migration, urbanization, xenophobia, multiculturalism, racial discrimination, unemployment, poverty, and crime increase globally, politicians have recently started to show a greater interest in a social cohesion agenda. International organizations such as the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the World Bank, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA) conceptualize and define social cohesion in different ways in their policy documents. What is noteworthy about each concept is that they all view social cohesion as the loose ties that unite people and shape their behaviour and the equivalence of fostering community, inclusiveness, social capital, and the alleviation of poverty in society. However, the promotion of social cohesiveness occurs when citizens develop a sense of belonging and a willingness to lend a hand, and when all diverse groups experience participation, inclusion, legitimacy, and acknowledgement. A cohesive community minimizes differences and prevents marginalization to promote the well-being of all of its members. It involves three main aspects: promoting cohesion through creating networks of relationships, trust, and identity among many groups; combating discrimination, exclusion, and excessive inequities; and facilitating upward social mobility.
Overview of the Concept of Social Cohesion in South Africa
In South Africa, Social cohesion gained national attention in 2012 during the National Social Cohesion Summit hosted by the Department of Arts and Culture, social cohesion is still a relatively new idea in South Africa. In the public and scholarly discourse on social integration in South Africa, the idea of social cohesiveness has now gained a lot of support. Social cohesion is now a key outcome in South Africa’s medium-term strategic framework for national development because of a significant increase in the country’s engagement with the idea through government policy. South Africa is not an exception to the consensus that social cohesion is necessary as a strategic precondition for societal transformation. As the country is ploughed with Inequality, social fragmentation, migration, urbanization, xenophobia, multiculturalism, racial discrimination, unemployment, denial of socio-economic and civil rights, corruption, biased administrative justice, poverty, inequality, gender and sexual orientation prejudices and stereotypes are just a few of the issues that lead to a breakdown in values, and people believe that they have not benefitted from democracy, globalisation, and integration.
It is difficult to imagine South Africa overcoming the huge barriers to prosperity and fairness without a strong level of social cohesiveness and unity of purpose. At the same time, without significant redress, lowering poverty and disparities to mention a few, resolving social divisions and exclusions, and encouraging active citizenship and equity, it will be difficult to restructure society and bring the nation together. Recognizing that poverty affects all South Africans and changing society’s attitudes and behaviours are crucial to finding solutions to these problems. All social partners, every single person, and every institution have a role to play, even while the effectiveness of the state continues to be crucial in developing an overarching shared identity and social cohesiveness. According to the South African government, the social compact’s goals are to strengthen national cohesion and nation-building through, hence the contributions of all stakeholders are necessary in upholding social cohesion while the role of the legislation remains significant.
Legislation and Social Cohesion in South Africa
Social cohesion alone may not keep a society like South Africa together for very long, though, especially in cases when it struggles to offer economic opportunities to create cash. Despite these difficulties, social cohesion appears to support a wide range of social outcomes, including economic success, employment opportunities, and the development of economic and social ties that may encourage people to cooperate across boundaries and address societal problems, such as those related to poverty, unemployment, or education.
A fundamental component of transforming a nominal democracy into a genuine democracy that provides people with real development benefits is a strong legislature that holds the executive accountable. Legislative oversight is meant to encourage accountability and openness in public offices, as well as checks and balances, budgetary responsibility, and good governance. It also serves a variety of other goals and purposes, including enhancing the economy’s efficiency and the effectiveness of governmental operations; assessing programs and performance; detecting and preventing inefficient administration, waste, abuse, and arbitrary and capricious behaviour; informing the public and ensuring that executive policies reflect the public interest.
Legislative oversight is the ability of the legislature to study, monitor, and oversee government programs, actions, and strategies for the executive branch of government to implement policies. This is done to make sure that this branch of government operates in a way that upholds the fundamentals of good governance and continues to be accountable to the people it serves. This emphasis on the legislature stems from a recognition of its importance in promoting democratic government and socioeconomic progress. The legislative branch’s three main functions are legislation (making or changing new laws), supervision (managing the executive branch and being the custodian of natural resources), and deliberation (acting as a liaison between the people and the government).
In conclusion, there hasn’t been a widely shared national strategy on how to eliminate the legacy of colonial apartheid or a coordinated effort to advance the interests of those who are least able to defend themselves. As a result, South Africa continues to be a nation of two nations, one with a black face and low socioeconomic status and the other with a white face and high socio-economic status but no sense of cohesiveness. The process of bringing together South Africans from various origins is known as social cohesion to achieve equal opportunity, inclusion, and redress, encouraging leadership and active citizenship, fostering social cohesiveness through more cross-class and racial interaction, and promoting social agreements remain very utmost.
Dr. Stanley O. Ehiane is an academician and a researcher. He writes in his capacity.