South African citizens are far from satisfied with the performance of the country's major municipalities, and it's worth asking the questioning whether service delivery is even a priority of local governments.
This according to the latest South African Citizen Satisfaction Index (SA-csi), which measures the expectations of citizens and compares these to the actual experience offered by municipalities in terms of fulfilling mandates to provide water, electricity, waste removal and other primary duties.
The results of the SA-csi are in line with Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu's finding that most of the country's municipalities had underperformed in the 2019/20 year, and that many had recorded poor service delivery results after a range of irregular expenditure was discovered.
Citizen satisfaction dips to all-time low
The SA-csi tracks the degree to which residents are pleased with the efforts of major metros Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay, and Tshwane. The results, as it turns out, are damning.
"Satisfaction and trust in their local municipality has remained extremely low with none of the major metros managing to meet their residents expectations of service delivery," the report states.
Garnering a score of 66 out of 100, residents in Cape Town are the most pleased with their municipality's level of performance, but frankly that isn't saying much. The survey outlined a par score of 55.7 for all municipalities
Ekurhuleni scored the second-best with a score of 58.4 and an improvement of 1.7 on its previous result in 2019. Ethekwini and Tshwane are on par with scores of 57.2 and 53.6 respectively, while City of Johannesburg (51.4), Nelson Mandela Bay (49.8), Buffalo City (46.5) and Mangaung (38.9) come in below par.
Nelson Mandela Bay has seen a sharp and steady decline in citizen satisfaction scores since 2018 when it reached a high of 61.9. Mangaung's scores declined to the lowest scores recorded on the index in South Africa, as well as any of the indices in the 23 international markets where the model is utilised.
Cape Town 'closest to satisfying'
These disappointing scores are the result of residents in the metros expecting more from their local governments, but receiving less and less in most cases.
Cape Town has the smallest gap (-5.5) between what citizens expect and what they perceive in terms of actual delivery, which means that Cape Town is closest to delivering the basic services of a local government to what their citizens would expect.
"All other metros' scores reflect substantial lapses between expectations and actual perceived quality of service delivery, with Buffalo City (-20,5) and Mangaung (-26.1) performing very poorly on this metric," the report states.
Ineke Prinsloo, Head of Customer Insights at Consulta, who are responsible for compiling the SA-csi, said that the decreasing level of satisfaction is extremely concerning.
"Based on the latest results, the conclusion can be drawn that for citizens in certain metros, service delivery has decreased to levels that is substantially below acceptable benchmarks," she said.
Service delivery 'not a priority' according to results
Prinsloo said that the dire decline in municipal performances articulated by respondents suggests that these institutions aren't actually prioritising the fundamental deliverables they are tasked with. Residents were most dissatisfied with water supply and management, electricity supply, garbage/refuse removal, unkempt streets and rates and accounts.
"The results pose an important question on whether service delivery is a priority for numerous municipalities – leadership in local government will have to take stock on these results to justify their existence to its citizenry," said Prinsloo.
"When you look at what the drivers are behind satisfaction levels, citizen mentions mostly related to basics that underpin the very existence of a municipality."
Turnaround Strategy must focus on improving service delivery
In order to turn this around, Prinsloo said the Local Government Turnaround Strategy, introduced by government as a blueprint and action plan towards accountable and efficient local governments points to various areas in need of improvement of to fast-track service delivery to citizens.
"The results bring impetus for municipal management to refocus on this strategy and on what matters most to citizens: responsive, accountable, effective and efficient local government," she said.
She said that value for money is something that very few respondents reported.
"It is also interesting to note, that the more dissatisfied citizens are, the higher their expectations become. The reality is that the results point to a growing dissatisfaction over the past couple of years of a decreasing trend in value for money on service delivery that citizens fund through payment of utility accounts, rates and taxes."