Public Service Delivery in South Africa: Councillors and Citizens Critical Links in Overcoming Persistent Inequities

The August 2016 local government elections in South Africa sent an earthquake through the
political class when the African National Congress (ANC) lost power in three major cities of
the country. Coalition governments led by the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the Economic
Freedom Fighters (EFF) took over the economic powerhouse, Johannesburg; the
administrative capital and seat of the Presidency, Pretoria; and the biggest city in the Eastern
Cape and the country’s vehicle-manufacturing hub, Nelson Mandela Bay. Additionally, the
DA grew its share of the vote to more than two-thirds in Cape Town, the home of Parliament.
In Ekurhuleni and other cities, the ANC created coalitions and barely clung to power. This paper explores public opinion on basic services provision at the local government level in
South Africa. Building on Bratton, which focused on local councillors’ responsiveness to
constituents’ needs, I explore other factors that may influence public perceptions of local
service delivery, including contact with local councillors and councillors’ job performance
and trustworthiness. I also examine which actions, if any, citizens take when they see
problems in their municipality.