Participation in LGE wanes due to poor service delivery

Demonstrators cheer as they tear down a street lamp during a protest against what they said was the government’s failure to provide adequate housing facilities and other basic services. SABC News

The 2021 Local Government Elections (LGE) will take place in about five weeks and in recent years participation in elections has waned, with some questioning the purpose of voting at the local government level as service delivery remains very poor.

South Africa has seen a spike in protests often sparked by unsatisfied residents demanding services from the government of the day.

Municipalities are the sphere of government closest to the people. Often seen as grassroots governance, they have a bigger impact and influence over the daily lives of citizens.

South Africa has 278 municipalities, comprising eight metropolitan, 44 district and 226 local municipalities, many of these are marred by the thorny issue of service delivery, where residents in both rural and urban communities regularly express unhappiness over shoddy services.

LGE provides a platform for voters to have their say at the polls in five weeks about who governs their municipality.

As the country gears up for the local government elections, political parties have been crisscrossing the country asking for a chance to govern and promising a better life for ordinary South Africans.

LGE 2021 | Service Delivery Gauge

Local government expert Tshepang Molale explains the purpose of the elections and what voters should consider: “The function of municipalities is to provide services to local citizens in a way that is packaged and contextualised within a local setting. It is to take services that all different government departments have to offer and then package them in a manner that would be quickly, efficiently and readily available for local communities in specific wards.”

“Another function or the importance of having municipalities is to also afford citizens direct access to government planning where we talk about facilitating community participation processes where local communities can inform different plans, projects and development interventions that community municipalities must offer. There are different levels or types of municipalities – you have your local municipality, a district municipality and a metro so all these municipalities differ in terms of scope, economic outlook and capacity,” added Molale.

In the build-up to the Local Government Elections due to be held on November first, voters will be looking to have their grievances on service delivery resolved. Political party campaigns are in full swing with parties visiting townships and rural areas, promising services as the voting day draws closer.

Over the weekend, African National Congress (ANC) President Cyril Ramaphosa received a hostile welcome from some residents in Soweto over the electricity crisis in the township.

Johannesburg is one of the eight metros in the country while Gauteng has over 6 million registered voters, the party will look to secure after losing it to the Democratic Alliance (DA) in 2016.

Molale says the current attitude towards the ANC is not surprising.

“It is not surprising. We have seen public moral weaning down in the last few years against the ruling party so it is not surprising to see the community is displaying that kind of apathy or negative attitude towards the President and his political party. But this has got a lot more to do with the public perception that the ANC has generated. Several ANC players are being associated with corruption cases that they are undergoing,” says Molale.

According to a recent survey by marketing firm, Ipsos – support for the ANC will dwindle and Molale says the party’s image has been dented.

Molale says, “Metros I foresee that they are an area that will be very interesting to watch particularly in the last five years. We know that the ANC lost power in key metros and then we had power sharing agreements. The ANC’s public image hasn’t helped itself that could give one the idea or the belief that they might still win the metros.”

After the elections, all eyes will be on which party will be given a chance to change the lives of ordinary people.

But the COVID-19 pandemic has not made things easier for parties as efforts to go all out to garner support have been severely restricted.

Reports of corruption increased during COVID- 19:

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