We all recognise that Gauteng was ‘kick-started’ with the discovery of gold, but it has shaken off its mining origins to become the economic engine and heart of South Africa. It may be the smallest of the nine provinces (a mere 1.4% of land area), yet it generates just over a third of South Africa’s gross domestic product (GDP) and is home to 22% of South Africans (11.3-million people).
So, what differentiates Gautengers from other South Africans? What is it about them that gives Gauteng its unique and inimitable character? To try to answer this, we have turned to futurefact, South Africa’s premier psychographic survey, which has been monitoring the attitudes, values and belief systems of South Africans since 1998 and providing the facts and substance that enable organisations to make key strategic interventions for building a sustainable future.
futurefact finds that Gautengers:
Are optimistic, positive and confident
Gautengers are inherently optimistic people who rise above the doom and gloom. Just over six out of 10 believe that South Africa’s democratic foundations are strong and will endure. They also remain very positive and confident about the future of South Africa. This optimism arises from their confidence and belief in themselves and their abilities. They describe themselves as middle-class as well as better educated than their parents and are more likely than average to have some post-matric qualifications. They are also not just talkers: seven out of 10 say they are prepared to do their bit to make their country or community a better place for all citizens to live in. As many as 84% say, “I am a person who can achieve whatever I set out to achieve provided I put effort into it.” They are definitely taking responsibility for their own lives based on their sense of competence and self worth.
Are more tolerant of change
Go to any suburb, restaurant, shopping centre or business premises in Gauteng and you will find South Africans of all races and religions living and working together. In keeping with half of South Africans, Gautengers generally believe that “all people are my brothers and sisters and equals, regardless of their race, religion and political beliefs”. This also translates into greater tolerance for legal abortions (47%) and gay relationships (43%) than other South Africans. More than eight out of 10 endorse meritocracy in the workplace and are not in favour of tokenism, though six in 10 say that affirmative action still has a place for several more years. Three quarters believe it is important to support and use black businesses and professionals such as lawyers and doctors.
Are more accepting of corruption
While more than six out of 10 feel so overwhelmed by the level of corruption in SA that they “have lost hope of stopping it”, this has also led to an “if you can’t beat them join them attitude”. Almost four out of 10 ask why they shouldn’t also benefit when so many other people are benefitting from corruption. So we find a greater preparedness to pay bribes to get off fines (particularly if this prevents their going to jail) and also a belief that it is okay to pay a bribe to get a contract or tender provided the job is executed properly. While the majority of Gautengers do not believe in benefitting from corruption and over half would love to see a really strong leader emerge who could re-establish order and discipline, the fact that between 30% and 40% tend to condone corruption doesn’t bode too well for the future, nor for stamping it out.
While incidence of cellphone usage is very high throughout the country, Gautengers love new technology and tend to be its early adopters. More than 80% of them are already using the internet to search for information (this could be via cellphone or computer). This interaction and familiarity with technology results in activities such as using social media for communication, e-mailing, doing online banking, downloading apps, reading publications online and getting news alerts.
Are into conspicuous consumption
Gautengers have a reputation for being attracted by bling and a lifestyle that uses products and brands as a means of identity and belonging, as well as an indicator of personal success and prestige. Seven out of 10 believe that the best way to gauge someone’s success is through their possessions. Six out of 10 feel it is really important to create the right impression and demonstrate who you are to people who are admired and whose approval is being sought. This is achieved through homes, possessions and purchases of high-status brands: from the latest technology to appliances, furniture, expensive cars, clothing and accessories, and upmarket homes in the right suburbs. This can result in excessive credit and people finding themselves overwhelmed by debt, but there are also a significant number (around 40%) of people with more spending money than previously and who have started investing in investment policies and on the JSE. Just over half describe themselves as being ‘brand loyal’ and tend to belong to customer loyalty programmes.
Ultimately it is the people who choose to live in Gauteng (resisting the lure of the great mountain to the south) that make Gauteng what it is today and who provide it with its unique character. Surprisingly to those with the mountain, many of those who live in Gauteng love it and wouldn’t trade it for anywhere else. They love the glorious climate, the buzz and the sheer indomitable spirit and vitality of the place. They are doers and it is their energy driving the province and its vibrant economy and lifestyle. n
Jos Kuper is a research professional with more than 40 years’ experience. She heads Kuper Research, a consultancy specialising in media, marketing and socio-political analysis. www.futurefact.co.za