A month before the August local government elections, new data from the Gauteng City-Region Observatory (GCRO) shows that satisfaction with municipalities in Gauteng has declined very slightly since 2013, but dissatisfaction has also dropped significantly. These results suggest a greater middle-ground of potentially ‘undecided’ voters, according to a study done by the GCRO in partnership with the University of Johannesburg, University of the Witwatersrand, the Gauteng Provincial Government and organised local government in Gauteng.
It is also clear that respondents increasingly distinguish between government performance at national and local levels. Recently increasing levels of dissatisfaction with national government seem to go hand-in-hand with positive perceptions of local government.
The results are from a massive Quality of Life Survey conducted every two years by the GCRO, with the 2015 survey based on 30 000 respondents from across Gauteng.
The results of the 2015 Survey were launched by GCRO Executive Director Rob Moore, and responded to by Gauteng Premier David Makhura and SALGA Gauteng chairperson Parks Tau, on Tuesday, 28 June 2016.
According to Dr Rob Moore, “The GCRO’s 2015 Quality of Life Survey is the largest social attitudes survey ever conducted in the Gauteng province. Over 200 questions are asked of residents from all parts of the province and every walk of life.”
“Many of the questions asked in the Survey relate to satisfaction with services and satisfaction with government,” said Moore, “and here we see key trends relevant to the August local elections. In 2013, 37% of respondents were satisfied with local government. In 2015 this is down to 34%. However, in 2013 51% were firmly dissatisfied with local government, which has dropped to 45%. It appears that more people are undecided, neither satisfied nor dissatisfied”. Interestingly, at 43%, whites are more satisfied with local government than Africans at 33%.”
During the period in which the survey was conducted (July 2015 to May 2016), satisfaction with local government improved while, by contrast, national government took a big knock in levels of satisfaction – both since 2013, and over the course of the survey – especially as a result of ‘Nenegate’.
The 2015 survey is the fourth in the series, running every two years with the first conducted in 2009. This iteration, the largest ever, interviewed 30 000 residents, sampled to provide robust results at provincial, municipal and ward levels. The survey asked questions on a range of factors that shape the quality of daily life in the city-region, including provision of basic services, satisfaction with government, transport and mobility, livelihoods, local community and neighbourhood dynamics, health and well-being, migration, as well as political and social values and attitudes.
Asking some probing questions, the survey was able to explore the nuances of key issues. For example results show that people who have had a positive interaction with a government department in the three months prior to being interviewed are much more likely to be satisfied with local government. Those who are satisfied with their local councillor are dramatically more likely to be satisfied with local government more generally. “Personal experience with government services plays a powerful role in shaping attitudes towards government as whole,” observed Moore.
The survey provides a holistic assessment of life in the Gauteng City-Region and zooms in to identify key areas and groups needing intervention and support. “It gives rich information to policy makers and the public wanting to track where progress is being made and where concerns remain,” said Moore.
Some of the key areas of focus and key results from the 2015 Quality of Life Survey include the following:
Current levels of satisfaction with key services such as water, electricity, waste, health and education:
In general there have been high and stable levels of satisfaction with services since the 2013 survey.
There is continued and relatively high satisfaction with basic services, health and education. By way of example 83% of Gauteng respondents are satisfied with water services, 65% with public health services and 71% with local education services.
However there has been a drop in satisfaction with energy services from 78% (2013) to 72% (2015), possibly reflecting the impact of load-shedding.
There is significantly lower satisfaction – at only 22% – with government initiatives to grow the economy.
High levels of service satisfaction do not translate into high levels of satisfaction with government. On an index of 13 services typically provided by local government, 59% of Gauteng residents are satisfied. However only 34% are satisfied with the performance of local government generally.
Changing levels of satisfaction with national, provincial and local government since 2009:
There are slightly lower levels of satisfaction with national, provincial and local government in 2015 compared with 2013. However there has also been a significant decline in levels of dissatisfaction.
There were big gains in local government satisfaction over the period of the survey. When the survey started in July/August 2015, dissatisfaction with local government hovered around 55%. When fieldwork ended in April/May 2016, dissatisfaction with local government had declined to less than 40%.
By contrast, satisfaction with national government was clearly knocked by national political events such as ‘Nenegate’ during the course of the survey. Starting at around 39%, dissatisfaction with national government climbed to 48% in February 2016, then recovered.
Some municipalities have seen increases in local government satisfaction since 2013, notably Ekurhuleni, Mogale City and Westonaria. Others such as Tshwane, Emfuleni and Merafong have seen declines.
Key reasons for dissatisfaction with local government:
Lower levels of satisfaction with local government are a concern because they impact negatively on respondents’ intention to vote.
Various factors seem to account for higher or lower levels of satisfaction with local government.
For example, 37% of those who feel they were treated with dignity and respect in recent interactions with government are satisfied with their municipality. Satisfaction with local government drops to 20% for those who felt they were not well treated.
The performance of councillors clearly has a large impact: 58% of those who were satisfied with their councillor were also satisfied with local government generally; amongst those dissatisfied with their councillor only 16% were satisfied with local government.
Economic conditions in Gauteng
Income inequality, as measured by the Gini coefficient (where a score of ‘0’ reflects perfect equality and ‘1’ perfect inequality), has fallen slightly from0.75 in 2013 to 0.70 in 2015.
The proportion of current business owners among Gauteng respondents fell from 11% in 2011 and 2013, to 8% in 2015.
Of those who had tried to start a business, 45% said that their business had failed, up from 34% in 2013.
Key social attitudes, notably with regards to trust between races, prejudice and hostilities:
In general racial attitudes softened between 2013 and 2015. In 2013, 66% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘blacks and whites will never really trust each other’. In 2015 this dropped to 58%.
These results differ noticeably by race. 62% of African respondents agreed that blacks and whites will never trust each other, hearteningly down from 73% in 2013. However, the proportion of white respondents agreeing that blacks and whites will never trust each other increased from 40% in 2013 to 44% in 2015.
Despite the xenophobic attacks in Gauteng in 2015, the proportion of South Africans who agreed with the statement ‘Gauteng belongs to South Africans only, send all foreigners home’ fell to 24% in 2015 from 38% in 2013.
Disturbingly, 14% of residents think it is acceptable to be violent towards gay and lesbian people.
Key political opinions on the state of politics in South Africa:
61% of respondents agree with the statement ‘The country is going in the wrong direction’
The 2015 results show that only 52% agree that the upcoming municipal elections will be free and fair, dropping from 66% who agreed that the 2011 elections were free and fair.
Using an index of over 50 indicators, overall quality of life in Gauteng has improved:
The quality of life index for Gauteng shows continued overall improvement since 2011; however the index varies significantly across race groups with Africans being the only group that falls below the provincial average.
The average for Gauteng, out of 10, is now 6.20, up from 6.10 in 2013.
The three municipalities with the highest recorded quality of life on the index are Randfontein, Mogale City and Johannesburg.
About the Gauteng City-Region Observatory:
The GCRO is a partnership between the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, the Gauteng Provincial Government and organized local government in Gauteng. The Gauteng City-Region – which includes the whole of Gauteng and key outliers such as Rustenburg and Sasolburg – is the beating heart of the national economy, contributing over 40% to the country’s GDP, and holding a quarter of its population.