Protests over inadequate or non-existent service delivery continue to be a feature of South Africa’s socio-political landscape. Khutsong, Moutse, Matatiele, Bushbuckridge and other communities, have all reached boiling point, as people took to their demands to the streets.
A survey conducted by TNS Research Surveys between April 2006 and April 2007, showed a high level of dissatisfaction with service delivery in certain municipalities. TNS Research Surveys director of innovation and development, Neil Higgs, was quoted by Independent Online as saying that about a third of black and coloured residents in Gauteng metropolitan areas were not happy with the services they were getting from government. According to the survey, 44 percent of black small town Gauteng residents were also dissatisfied.
From where I stand, these protest and increasing rumblings of dissatisfaction amongst the electorate should be keeping politicians - in government - up at night. With the 2009 elections only a few months away, the practice of taking voters for granted is likely to haunt politicians as they return to communities to muster up support. As the season of promises (read election manifestos) is in full swing, political parties would do well to remember those who are responsible for electing them. It is ordinary men and women, who, just as they voted for a better life in 1994, will do the same in 2009. Communities directly affected by poor service delivery, are still waiting for that ‘better life’.
Our democracy is fast maturing. Voters know what they want and know the successes and failures of the parties they voted for. While there has been acknowledgement of poor service delivery in certain areas, the protests that have taken place throughout the country, are evidence of patience running out. Where are alternative models? How many municipalities have for example, entered into partnerships with civil society organisations and other role players with the view to speed up service delivery? I think that what is necessary is for municipalities to begin consulting communities and involving them in finding solutions to improve service delivery.
I argue that the Department of Local and Provincial Government has failed to create a ‘better life’ for many of South Africa’s communities. It is their responsibility to find solutions to the problems that are plaguing municipalities in the country – whether these are around capacity, competence, inadequate resourcing or spending, or mismanagement.
This month, the Anti Eviction Campaign (AEC) announced that it is planning a nationwide boycott of the upcoming general elections, and also campaign for others to follow their lead.
News24 quoted the organisation’s Western Cape Provincial Coordinator, Mncedisi Twala as saying: "Our people have been voting from April 1994. [But] We have never had a fruitful result out of those elections, because all that we see is corruption, nepotism and the promotion of the private sector."
I think the lack of service delivery and incompetent government staff leaves communities feeling that their votes are taken for granted. Political parties and independent candidates must appreciate the votes that they get from poor, by translating their election manifestos into service delivery. This will not leave communities disillusioned about the true meaning of democracy.