South Africans embrace Western countries, shun government’s Brics allies

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The survey, conducted among 3200 registered voters, asked respondents to choose between the US, the UK, Germany, Cuba, Russia, and China. Photo: Reuters
The survey, conducted among 3200 registered voters, asked respondents to choose between the US, the UK, Germany, Cuba, Russia, and China. Photo: Reuters


The vast majority of registered South African voters would prefer to work and raise their children in Western countries rather than the BRICS powers that the governing party has been pivoting towards in its foreign policy.

This is a finding made by the Social Research Foundation (SRF) think-tank in its most recent report released this week. The survey, conducted among 3200 registered voters, asked respondents to choose between the US, the UK, Germany, Cuba, Russia, and China.

South Africa is a member of the BRICS bloc alongside Brazil, Russia, India and China. In this alliance, it is Russia and China that the country has been most cosying up to, to the point that it has stoically refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine despite the obvious breach of the victim country’s sovereignty and wanton attacks on civilian targets.

Next month, South Africa is set to host naval exercises with Russia and China off the east coast, something that has drawn harsh criticism.

Cuba, a strong supporter of the liberation movements of southern Africa during the decolonisation period, has been the recipient of generous support from the South African fiscus.

In the survey, respondents were asked the question: 

If it were up to you, in which of the following countries would you prefer to work and raise your children?

Of the respondents, 33.6% picked the US as their first choice, followed by the UK at 21.5% and Germany at 10,7%. Surprisingly, impoverished Cuba, at 9.7%, pipped Russia, which garnered 1.4% and China, which came in at 0.8%.

A finding that the “anti-imperialist” ANC and EFF will find unpalatable is that even their supporters are in love with the Western nations.

Thirty percent of ANC voters picked the US, followed by Germany at 15% and the UK at 13%. Cuba was at 11%, while Russia and China were both at 1%.

Among EFF supporters, the US was a huge hit, with 39% of the red beret voters warming to Uncle Sam. The British former colonial overlords that Julius Malema and Floyd Shivambu love to deride were also a hit, with 32% of their flock saying that would be their preference. Twelve percent of them see Cuba as a viable option, 10% think Russia is okay and 5% could do with China.

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When it comes to the DA, the US tops with 36%, the UK is at 32% and Germany is at 11%. For some reason, 5% of DA supporters believe working and raising their children in communist Cuba would be a good idea. Two percent favour Russia and 1% would go to China.

ActionSA follows pretty much the same patterns, but its supporters want nothing to do with Russia and China.

FF+ supporters flip the chart, with an overwhelming 61% favouring the UK compared to the US’s 36% and Germany at 11%. Cuba, Russia and Germany score zero with this crowd.

The pattern of favouring the West doesn’t alter much, even when it comes to race. 

Thirty-three percent of black respondents gave the US the thumbs up, 17% said the UK was the perfect place and 8% were in favour of Germany. Cuba was quite popular among black respondents, hitting a whole 13% and Russia got 7%. China nudged onto the chart at 1%.

Among white South Africans, approval for the US was at 45%, the UK at 35% and Germany at 15%. The three remaining countries appealed to 0% of this race category.

Eighteen percent of coloured South Africans looked to the US, 36% to the UK and 19% to Germany. While 7% think Russia might be fine, Cuba and China don’t get a look in.

In terms of class, the US and UK do well among all income groups. The US is particularly popular among all classes, with the US most popular in the R2000 to R3000 bracket at 43%. The UK was most popular among those in the R800 to R12 000 bracket, hitting a 59% approval. Though less sexy among the lower income groups, Germany still did well there but was best among those earning above R20 0000, of whom 26% felt it was the place to work and raise families.

Cuba scored between 7% and 16%, but zero among those earning above R12 000. Russia and China got mostly zero affection from respondents across the income groups, with the highest being 5% and 4%, respectively.

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Commenting on these findings, the SRF said it was clear that the government’s foreign policy stances and allegiances were at odds with the sentiment of the population it represents.

“Generally, across lines of party affiliation, race and income level in the region of six to seven or more out of every 10 South Africans would prefer to live and work in a Western liberal democracy while in the region of one out of 10 would opt for either Cuba, Russia, or China. The data jars somewhat with South Africa’s foreign policy, which is often sympathetic to the latter while ambivalent on the former," said the SRF.

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