Communities feel ignored by govt, survey reveals

2010-12-21 00:00

“GOVERNMENT does not care!” was a key response to a democracy perception survey carried out among six rural communities in the uMgungundlovu district.

More than half the respondents felt their councillors were not interested in them and they felt there was a gap between ordinary citizens and officials.

They were frustrated with the slow pace of service delivery, especially in improving the socio-economic conditions in their areas. Their biggest concern was unemployment.

These were the overall findings of a second democracy perception survey carried out by the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Christian Social Awareness (Pacsa). The first was done in 2008.

The survey was conducted in Nxamalala and Indaleni areas in Richmond; and Gezubuso, Mafakatini, Trustfeed and in the KwaMpande areas surrounding Pietermaritzburg.

Mervyn Abrahams of Pacsa said the survey showed a crisis of confidence in local government. He added, however, that what was heartening was that despite their dissatisfaction the respondents shunned violent service delivery protests.

Abrahams said respondents expressed frustration that their voices were not being heard. They were critical of government imbizos, saying these meetings were not actually about citizen participation. They felt that the meetings were conducted after decisions had already been made and that the officials were just going through the motions of being consultative.

He said, on a positive note, comparing the present survey to the one that Pacsa conducted in 2008, they found that the majority of respondents felt that local democracy was better than it was three years ago. He said Pacsa was also heartened that respondents generally understood democracy and were aware that its success was dependent on citizen participation.

He said this was a reflection that the democracy training carried out by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is bearing fruit.

Abrahams added that in preparing for local government elections next year, political parties need to be mindful of the fact that socio-economic conditions continue to influence how communities measure democracy.

“The main challenges facing local communities remain unemployment, poverty and the growing gap between the rich and poor. Until these challenges are reversed the poor will always feel marginalised by institutions of the state and continue to believe that democracy does not work in their favour,” said Abrahams.







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