Damning distress over delivery

2011-04-09 16:21

A survey conducted by political think-tank Idasa points to a ­dramatic decline in satisfaction with the quality of municipal services on the unrealistic promises politicians make to citizens.

The research, which found that 89% of citizens in local and district municipalities were dissatisfied with service delivery despite ­government efforts, suggests that ­citizens expect local ­government to do more.

Titled The State of Local Governance from a Citizen Perspective, the survey found that dissatisfaction is “partly caused or at least reinforced by politicians making unrealistic promises and thus raising expectations regarding free services to ­unrealistically high levels”.

A group of respondents, who ­reported that services had worsened over the last four years, blamed ­corruption (31%), government ­“listening less to the people” (21%) and dysfunctional ward committees (20%).

A group of respondents who said services had improved attributed the perceived improvement to the availability of “more funds” (44%) in municipalities and properly ­functioning ward committees.

The survey, conducted in 21 ­municipalities across four provinces – Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal, Limpopo and North West – found that another ­reason for discontent is that problems identified four years ago have ­apparently not received enough ­attention from the authorities.

Municipalities in North West, a province beset by political ­infighting at the local government level, ­received the lowest ­rating.

Another finding is that Afrikaners and other white people are ­becoming increasingly alienated from local government, with many of them “hardly attending any ­council ­meetings”.

However, English-speakers and Afrikaners (55% and 38% respectively) felt safer in their municipalities than people from other groups.

Three in every four residents said their municipalities were not keeping them informed about council ­decisions, with the KwaZulu-Natal ­municipality of Mkhambathini rated the worst (93%) with ­regards to communications.

The survey reads: “The respondents were very outspoken about the fact that, according to them, the council should be more open and ­allow ­citizens to participate more ­actively.”

The survey also reveals that 78% of respondents found it unacceptable for councillors’ relatives to ­tender for municipal contracts, but fewer people in Limpopo (62%) than in KwaZulu-Natal (97%) found this practice unacceptable.

National government’s interventions to turn around the dire state of local government do not seem to have done much to improve public perceptions of the state of local ­government.

“Our findings confirm that the ­local government crisis in South ­Africa is deepening and starting to become a structural systemic ­problem that seems to become more and more embedded in our actual ­system of local government.”

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