/ SA-csi

Never a dull moment in the South African political arena, but are citizens getting the delivery they should?

The Nasrec 54th Elective conference, drama surrounding the former Mayors of Cape Town and Nelson Mandela Bay, the euphoria of the “New Dawn” and the ongoing judicial inquiries into “state capture” and SARS, citizens in our country would be forgiven for being addicted to FOMO (fear of missing out), and for suffering from constant adrenaline-fueled, breaking-news fatigue. With so many surprises and happenings, citizens don’t have the wherewithal to take a step back and really think about our own active citizenry responsibilities.

The SA-csi is such a platform. Now, in its fifth year of measurement, SA-csi for Municipalities provides a barometer of citizen sentiment and trust in the service delivery of their metro municipalities. The science of the study is solid, and we are proud of that. The report allows companies, governments and municipalities to benchmark against other competitors – both locally and internationally.

SA-csi 2018 measures the citizen satisfaction and trust in the metro municipalities. This includes Buffalo City, Cape Town, Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Johannesburg, Mangaung, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane. The total sample size was 2287 random interviewees across the metros, exceeding the minimum required sample size of 270 to guarantee a representative sample per metro.

Though not all the scores are published in the media, the following trends are evident:

*Citizen expectations from metro municipalities are up across the board, most notably in Buffalo City, Nelson Mandela Bay and Cape Town.

*Perceived quality is down across the industry, driven significantly by the   performance of Mangaung and Cape Town.

The delivery gap between what citizens expect, and what they perceive to be receiving has resulted in an overall drop in SA-csi score from 59.3 index points in 2017 to 57.4 this year. The only metro to have increased its SA-csi score in 2018 is Nelson Mandela Bay – increasing from 59.0 to 61.9 year on year. All other municipalities have produced a lower performance from last year. Cape Town is still the leader with 65.2, while Ekurhuleni, eThekwini, Nelson Mandela Bay and Tshwane are on par with the industry, despite their declines. Buffalo City and Mangaung continue to be below par, contributed to by the fact that Mangaung received the lowest ever SA-csi score of 41.1, showing a 10-index point drop from 2017.

So, what do citizens complain about from their municipalities? The research showed that water accounted for 36% of all citizen complaints, and 20% about electricity. Tax bills was a third, with 12% of complaints and road conditions at 8%. Call centre complaints are at 5%, with street lights at just below 5%. This tells us that citizens are unsatisfied with both service delivery aspects, as well as the behaviour of municipality representatives in how issues are handled and addressed. The overall complaint trend was stable between 2017, with Mangaung showing a significant increase in complaints – up by 8%.

In 2018, complaint handling performance decreased by 4 index points across the board, driven by significant declines in Cape Town, Johannesburg, Buffalo City and Tshwane. Only Nelson Mandela Bay increased performance of complaint handling in 2018 by 3 index points.

An important metric measured by the SA-csi research is Citizen Trust. This measures the level of confidence that citizens have in their municipality, as well as the intent to speak positively about it. This metric has decreased at an industry level, most notably in Cape Town. Stable performances were achieved in Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.

So, what does this tell us? What are the biggest influences of citizen ratings against SA-csi score? From the service delivery perspective and in order of importance, citizens want access to electricity, reliability of electricity when needed, and provision of clean drinking water.

Despite the challenges in Mangaung, residents are happy to live in Bloemfontein. In Cape Town, people love to live in a beautiful city. Poor leadership and political expediency, where political gains are prioritised above the welfare of people. In certain municipalities, service delivery just doesn’t seem to be a priority for the municipality.

It will be interesting to see how the political events of the latter half of 2018 impact citizen perceptions of satisfaction and service delivery in 2019. In fact, 2019 is an election year, so citizens could hold municipal principles to account.

In a 2015 article in Mail & Guardian titled “Citizens make municipalities accountable”, Daniel Plaatjies laid out his perception of the challenges in municipalities. Notable comments include: “Municipal government is weak without the strength and political currency of citizens… Sitting Councillors who are ostracised by their own parties will jump ship to join other parties to secure continued political office, including proximity to the fiscal purse or simply an income…. Candidates should declare their norms and support for our constitutional law, confirming that citizen participation is a virtue in its own right, and a sine qua non of our democracy.”

Municipalities in South Africa would do well to realise that service delivery is important to citizens – more important than power struggles and political means. Citizens want their lives to be enhanced and improved through the services that municipalities are required to provide. In an environment of limited resources and unlimited needs. It is a careful balance, which should include building effective capacity, and the effective utilisation of the limited resources to drive the municipalities and the country forward.