Photography by:
  • Papama Tungeli & Lelani Du Preez & Evans Symonds

Anti-racism in the GCR

  • Ongoing
  • Dr Caryn Abrahams

This project has taken forward work done on understanding non-racialism in post-apartheid South Africa by looking at practical planning towards antiracism strategies in the Gauteng City-Region. Given the apparent resurgence of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination on the basis of ethnicity in South Africa, practical work embedded in policy is critical to advance the constitutional values of non-racialism and equality. GCRO has a history of successful work in this field (for example a conference held in 2011 with the Kathrada Foundation, leading to two international publications). This project builds on that success and aims to propose a pragmatic framework for reversing racism in contemporary South Africa that will traverse the public, business and education sectors.

Preliminary research suggests that nation-building programmes and calls for patriotic practice alone will not fundamentally reverse growing racist and ethnicist sentiment and practice (in various sectors including the public sector). There needs to be a pragmatic approach. The National Development Plan does not propose pragmatic solutions to growing fractures within society, yet assert that ‘systemic racism must be confronted by society as otherwise it will be reproduced and reinforce itself across generations’ (NDP, p 461). Attempts to institutionalize an anti-racism framework from the top-down inadvertently bureaucratises an essentially social behaviour, making any attempt toward creating a non-racial society unusable and indeed incongruous with practices of social change/anti-racism that emerge from the ground up. A focus on organic and campaign-led anti-racism, instead, is more likely to reverse the resurgence of racism, xenophobia and ethnic chauvinism in contemporary South Africa.

The project reviews the extensive international experience, looking at successful national action plans/practice against tribalism and racism, and considers the successful experience of civil society organisations in confronting this issue. The basis of this project is to inform and discuss pathways toward social change.


This particular area of work demands that our research does not only influence policy and societal change in an abstracted ways – through publications about the field – but in direct ways through involvement with government, practioners and public intellectuals within in the field. To this end, the project aims to participate in the co-creation of knowledge and practice between these different groups. This involvement provides the platform through which the GCRO explores existing technologies of practice, and can reflect on the pathways of meaningful societal change.


  • National Anti-Racism Network working group, Ahmed Kathrada Foundation and Nelson Mandela Foundation
  • National Action Plan against Racism, Xenophobia and Related Intolerances, Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, Steering Committee Member


As part of ongoing research into race dynamics in the Gauteng City-Region, the GCRO interviewed a number of young people on the streets of Braamfontein. Each interviewee was photographed and their response to questions of race was recorded. These interviews were collated into this video, which powerfully represents the diversity and complexity of race perspectives among Gauteng's youth. The video can be accessed via the following link, or played directly below.

The next phase of work looks to publish a GCRO-authored report on anti-racism based on two research studies initiated in 2014-15. This will feed into the work by the Anti-Racism Network and will inform on-going consultations and programmes with the Department of Justice. The future focus of the project will be the nature of contemporary forms of racism in post-apartheid South Africa, which will inform a nation-wide reporting, advocacy and intervention mechanism.



Abrahams, C. and Nemakhavhani, R (2016) 'Perspectives on Race & Racism: A view from the street'. Multimedia film. Johannesburg: GCRO.

Abrahams, C. (2014) ‘Social Attitudes in the GCR’, Vignette 21, Johannesburg: GCRO.


Abrahams, C. (2015) ‘Non-racialism in the GCRO’s Quality of Life Survey’, Keynote address at Ahmed Kathrada Foundation Colloquium ‘Non-racialism at a dead end? What do the Surveys Say?’, Constitution Hill, Johannesburg, 7 March, 2015.

Abrahams, C. (2015) Debating the Race Issue. The Jesuit Society, 'Race: Conversations we are not having', A reflection on race and anti-racism in faith-based institutions


Abrahams, C. (forthcoming 2016) Abrahams, C., 2016: The future of Race in South Africa: Prospects, Attitudes and Non-racialism in J. Robinson, A. Hefferman, C.Bundy and P. Naidoo (Eds): What Now? The Next 20 Years of South Africa's Democracy. Oxford: James Currey Publishers).


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