With the national general elections coming up in May, service delivery protests are at an all-time high in South Africa, with 237 protests recorded last year, representing an increase of 24% compared to the previous record in 2014’s election year.
The Eastern Cape is the most protest-afflicted province at 20%, but the premier’s office insists service delivery protests have been reduced in the province.
Municipal IQ, a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation that collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities, said 2014 was the last general election year and it remains to be seen whether 2019 elections will spur on protests to a higher level.
Kevin Allan, its managing director, said between 2004 and 2018, Gauteng was the major site for service delivery protests – on average accounting for 24% of protests, reaching 34% in 2017.
In 2018, the Eastern Cape surpassed Gauteng as the most protest-afflicted province.
Rising unemployment levels also correlated with an increase in service delivery protests.
Karen Heese, economist at Municipal IQ, said the 2018 results suggested that the Ntirhisano (war room) strategy of Gauteng may be yielding results in co-ordinating intergovernmental service delivery solutions.
“It is possible the coalition arrangements in the province’s three metros allow for greater debate, alleviating the need for street protests,” said Heese.
“The dual economic pressures of a recessionary environment and rising unemployment seem to be feeding into service delivery protests.”
According to the Eastern Cape premier’s spokesperson, Sizwe Kupelo, the majority of the service delivery protests were a result of the province’s infrastructure rollout programme where communities protested over jobs.
“We were victims of our own success,” he said.
Kupelo said the war rooms had reduced the number of service delivery protests in the province.
The Gauteng provincial government failed to respond to questions.