Beware the angry voters!


Service delivery – or the lack of it, especially in rural areas – is generating violent protest across South Africa and has become a matter of life and death.

That’s why political analysts believe the municipal elections on 18 May could be the most critical poll since 1994.

Because it’s not just in Ficksburg where community anger is boiling over about basics such as water provision and refuse removal.

In Sannieshof in North West and in Ngwathe and Mafube in the Free State things are so bad residents and ratepayers’ associations have taken control of refuse removal and sewerage services.

Only 10 per cent of South Africans are happy with the performance of local government in their area, a recent survey by South African democracy institute Idasa shows.

That’s why it comes as no surprise to him that President Jacob Zuma promised at the Freedom Day celebrations at the Union Buildings in Pretoria to provide “more effective and direct support to municipalities experiencing difficulties”.

Is this just an empty election promise? It’s up to voters to decide.

GOVERNMENT SUCCESSES *Households with clean water: 1994 62%; now 93%. *Households with toilet facilities: 1994 50%; now 77%. *Households with electricity: 1994 36%; now 84%.

GOVERNMENT FAILURES *Just 30 of the country’s 283 municipalities have adequate water provision.  *Twenty struggling municipalities were placed under administration – this means the provincial government had to take over their management or finances. *Since 1994 a total of 56 municipalities had to be rescued from collapse.

THE GOOD AND THE BAD Nine of the 10 most productive municipalities are in the Western Cape. And those performing worst are mainly in the Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, according to the fourth annual Municipal Productivity Index (MPI™) of Municipal IQ, an independent online information service on local government.

SECRET OF SUCCESS Johannesburg, the top metro, spent years investing a lot in infrastructure, Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese explains. They have a bigger tax base than other cities and hundreds of millions in profits made by the city is ploughed back into the area.

In turn Cape Town and eThekwini, two of the other top metros, have a high manufacturing base with for instance engineers who maintain the good infrastructure for water, sanitation and roads. Cape Town is also one of the municipalities which provide most free services such as water and electricity to its residents.

What are the most important criteria for a successful municipality? How a city spends its budget is an important departure point for service delivery, Heese says.

“Unfortunately the statistics show the worst developed municipalities continue to provide the worst service to their residents.’’

What are the biggest problems in struggling municipalities? The lack of service delivery because the budget isn’t spent, Heese says. In addition too much is often set aside for officials’ salaries. For example in Sannieshof in the struggling Tswaing municipality the administrator earns R150 000 a month.

Read more in YOU, 12 May 2011.

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