Idasa has released its latest service delivery survey, barely three weeks ahead of the important local elections due to be held on May 18 across the country.
A similar poll conducted by the institute in 2006 showed that at least 39.5% of South Africans were satisfied with service delivery by municipalities, while the latest finding shows that this level of satisfaction has declined rapidly.
In terms of the constitution, service delivery is the prime responsibility of local authorities, while the provincial and central governments act as the channel for funding.The Idasa survey interviewed 2 375 adult South African citizens in 21 municipalities in Mpumalanga, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal and North West, and offers three reasons to explain this decline in support.
It also asked whether declining citizen satisfaction with local government performance might impact on the outcome of the poll.According to the survey results, the first reason for dissatisfaction is that the service delivery gap (the gap between what people expect and what government is realistically able to deliver) is increasing as citizens expect government to do more on the promises made by campaigning politicians.
The second reason is the lack of responsiveness of the council to the issues identified by its citizens as most important to them, like inadequate water provision and lack of good local roads.
“This suggests many priorities are decided at national level, leaving councils with limited power to address their constituents’ priorities and weak consultation and participation processes,” the Idasa survey said.
The final reason is that citizens assess their local governments not only on the basis of poor service delivery, but also take into account weak communication, lack of transparency, increased corruption and nepotism.
“It will be very interesting to see how these perceptions inform the voting behaviour of citizens during the upcoming local government elections,” the survey said.
An independent political analyst, Daniel Silke, said in reaction that the survey reinforced others of its type and information that was largely already known.
“What surveys like this do is create a sense of increasing unease among the most powerful political parties, especially the ruling African National Congress,” he said.
Silke said that the upcoming local elections may herald a change in voter patterns as many begin to examine and question just what politicians have done for them, rather than the brushstroke support of one party or another.
“The increasing dissatisfaction means that individual politicians will be examined closely as voter patience starts running out. But that doesn’t mean that another party, such as the Democratic Alliance would benefit from the fallout,” he said.
Silke said this dissatisfaction could translate into support for independent candidates or voters deciding not to cast their votes.
He said that part of the DA’s election strategy centred on voter education, with the message that if one party doesn’t cut it, then another should be given the chance for the next five years.
“The DA is definitely trying to capitalise on this concept, however, it is still to be seen if the voters will accept it yet,” he said.