As experts predict an unprecedented number of protests this year, the SA Local Government Association (Salga) released a study that found service-delivery protests did not reflect the efficiency of a municipality. Salga instead blamed poverty.
According to the “Local Government Perception on Community Protests” study, the more people who relied on government to survive, the more likely they were to protest on “seemingly insignificant” matters. Or, it suggested, over issues widely believed to have been resolved.
“While local government has made tremendous advances in extending services to all South Africans in a relatively short space of time, the need is so great in many communities [that] even a basic package of services does not have the intended consequence of raising communities’ living standards,” Salga said.
The study claimed most protests were caused not by government, as protesters have been claiming, but by a failure in communication. Municipal economist Karen Heese said failure by municipalities when such protests occurred was mostly at a micro level.
“There is not necessarily a link [between how well a municipality is run and service-delivery protests]. Most of these protests are in the bigger metros, Cape Town and Joburg, which are well run.
“Protests are rapidly increasing in those areas, but you would find even in municipalities that are in crisis, the protest would mainly be related to a failure at a micro level.”
Heese added that while communication and accountability were weak points in many municipalities, the protests themselves did not necessarily reflect their efficiency as a whole.
The 2016 SA Cities Network Report released in Johannesburg yesterday by SA Cities Network CEO Sithole Mbaga said South African municipalities had improved significantly since the demise of apartheid 22 years ago.
“We now think that we have reached a point [at which] we can conclude that South African municipalities are resilient, particularly the cities,” Mbaga said.
Municipal IQ warned that if the rate of service delivery protests was sustained, it would reach a record peak of 210 for the year, compared with 164 in 2015.
Also read: Protest figures wildly overstated – report