HSRC finds ‘Vote of Confidence’ in 2011 elections

Posted on June 29, 2011. Filed under: Elections |

Yesterday I noted the release of the results of the IEC Election Satisfaction Survey 2011 by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) – according to a short article by Jaré Struwig, Ben Roberts, Udesh Pillay and Elmé Vivier, the HSRC was commissioned by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to conduct a voter participation survey in late 2010, and an Election Satisfaction Survey on election day this year, 18 May.

Here are just a few of the findings –

– “Two-thirds of voters (66%) took less than 15 minutes to reach their voting stations, with 20% taking between 16 to 30 minutes, 9% between 31 to 60 minutes and 5% longer than an hour.”

– “Decisions about party choice were mostly made months prior to election day (75%), with only a small share deciding upon their voting preference on election day or shortly beforehand (11%).”

– “Ninety-four percent reported that no one had tried to force them to vote for a certain political party. Of those who did mention some form of coercion, 21% said that this had actually changed their decision. The most commonly mentioned sources of coercion were political parties and family or friends.”

– “Fifty-nine percent of voters expressed the view that political parties were very tolerant of one another during the 2011 election campaigns, with 22% reporting that parties were somewhat tolerant of each other and 13% perceived intolerance.”

– “Ninety-seven percent voiced general satisfaction with the quality of services rendered by IEC officials to voters, with 2% expressing a neutral position and 1% dissatisfied. Voters were asked to rate 10 aspects of the conduct of IEC officials at their voting station. Overall, there was a very positive assessment of officials.”

Based on the research findings, the HSRC concludes that “the voting public was overwhelmingly confident that the 2011 Municipal Elections were both free and fair, and provided an exceptionally favourable evaluation of the management performance of the IEC and the conduct of officials at voting stations.”

Read the full article here.

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Tim Murithi speaks on Electioneering Tonight

Posted on June 8, 2011. Filed under: Elections, Events |

Tim Murithi, Manager of the IJR Transitional Justice in Africa programme, will be speaking tonight at a public dialogue on Electioneering and its impact on Nation Building, hosted by the Desmond Tutu Peace Centre.  The dialogue will be moderated by Nomfundo Walaza, CEO of the Centre, and other participating panelists will be Rev. Courtney Sampson of the IEC and Raenette Taljaard of UCT.

The dialogue will be held at the Centre for the Book, Queen Victoria Street Cape Town, from 18:00 to 19:30. Looking forward to seeing you there!

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Local Government Elections 2011

Posted on May 23, 2011. Filed under: Elections |

The IJR’s Political Analysis team spent many long hours at the Western Cape Elections Results Centre in Bellville last week, watching as votes came in for the 2011 Local Government Elections!

We participated in television and radio interviews – and took a quick break to pose together for this picture…To read some of our online analysis, click on the links below:

Confidence low in local goverment

Tafelsig protests highlight that democracy is more than just voting

Cape tops governance despite protests: PSC

Government unresponsive, according to South Africans

Service delivery seen as key measure of parties’ performance

To tell us about your voting experiences or share your interpretation of election results, leave a comment below!

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Between polls and promises…

Posted on April 21, 2011. Filed under: Elections |

This morning I have an editorial piece in The New Age – but since it doesn’t seem to be up online, here’s a version I wrote that will appear in the soon-to-be-released first issue of the 2011 SA Reconciliation Barometer newsletter… You can also have a look at the links I used in writing the article.


Kate Lefko-Everett

It’s where we queue when our rates are in arrears. Where we go to complain about blackouts, or when the brimming pothole in the road outside threatens to overflow. To contest, and grudgingly pay traffic fines. Report illegal dumping. Apply for a new wheelie bin. Seek refuge when our homes are flooded by the Cape winter rains.

It’s the local municipal office, and despite the many achievements by this sphere of government around the country, a visit can often be a frustrating, demoralising and undignified experience.

For some, like the hundreds of protesting residents of Rietfontein and Ficksburg who have been recent targets of police rubber bullets, engagement with local government through standard bureaucratic channels has apparently proved fruitless.

South Africa’s 283 municipalities are constitutionally mandated to provide basic services and infrastructure to the communities within their boundaries, as well as to promote local economic and social development and ensure a safe and healthy environment. The perhaps less tangible, but equally critical tasks of this sphere are, according to Section 152 of the Constitution, to ‘provide democratic and accountable government for local communities’ and to encourage active citizen participation at local level.

However, many will agree that local government’s delivery track record is often reviewed with grim distaste, and never more so than in the lead-up to elections, as councillors vie to retain their positions and political parties bicker over policy and performance.

For better or for worse, citizens appear to take only limited interest in the heightened horse-trading that happens around local election times. Fewer than half of all registered voters (48%) turned out at local government elections in both 2000 and 2006, compared with a far higher 77% in national elections in 2009 and 2004. (IEC)

It is not difficult to understand why, when so many South Africans have not experienced the delivery that this constitutional mandate prescribes. In 2004, 60% of households in 155 municipalities did not have access to water in their homes or on their properties. Sixty percent of households in 203 municipalities did not have access to flush toilets. In a further 122 municipalities, 60% had no electricity. (view graph here)

Fast-forward to 2010, when Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Yunus Carrim acknowledged that still, only about half of all South Africans (54%) around the country have access to all four basic services delivered by local government: water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal.

Further, access differs dramatically according to province. A clear majority of residents of the Western Cape (88%), Gauteng (79%) and the Northern Cape (71%) live with access to these four basic services. This, however, is not the case in other provinces, with access levels at only 38% in the North West, 33% in the Eastern Cape and an unbelievable 15% in Limpopo. (view graph here)

Though perhaps intuitive to most of us, research also confirms that a majority of South Africans view these services – and the social, economic and psychological benefits they bring – as minimum, essential features of a decent and dignified life in this country. The 2006 Social Attitudes Survey conducted by the HSRC found that nine in ten respondents view mains electricity in a home as ‘essential’, and 85% described street lighting in the same way. More than three-fourths also described having a flush toilet at home and living in a neighbourhood without rubbish in the streets as ‘essential.’ A slightly lower 62% viewed having a bath or shower at home as among the minimum living standards that South Africans should not do without.

Dissatisfaction with local government is also evident in the findings of the SA Reconciliation Barometer survey, conducted annually by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR). When asked about confidence in local government, survey respondents perennially report far lower approval levels than in respect of provincial or national institutions. In 2010, more than half of all South Africans (55%) indicated that they have little or no confidence in local government.

Deputy Minister Carrim has commented, ‘Clearly we have to accelerate service delivery. We have no choice. For as much as we have made significant progress since 1994, we have simply not done enough.’ The consequence of this, he suggests, is that ‘the people, who are the ultimate judges, have announced their verdict repeatedly through the constant service delivery protests and in other ways’. (full statement)

Carrim has correctly cautioned that not all issues that have inspired recent spates of protest action fall within the ambit of the local sphere, including housing, job creation, education and safety and security.

However, in a pervasively protesting society, the contribution of service delivery failures to the untransformed and undignified daily lived experiences of many South Africans should not be underestimated. Municipal IQ finds that action specifically directed against local government account for two-thirds of all protests in South Africa since 2004, and these have affected 40% of all local and metro municipalities. Research released last year by the Community Law Centre has also found that, in addition to a rise in numbers, such protests have become increasingly violent.

Government’s planned response is indeed an ambitious one. Vision 2014 imagines universal access to affordable basic services, the formalisation of all informal settlements, reduced infrastructure backlogs, and clean cities with effective waste management systems in place, all in the next three years.

The CoGTA department has also adopted a Local Government Turnaround Strategy that emphasises the need to improve the quality of leadership in this sphere, as well as improve on accountability, transparency and performance. Led by the clarion call that ‘Local Government is Everyone’s Business’, the strategy aims to ‘restore the confidence of the majority of our people in our municipalities, as the primary delivery machine of the developmental state at the local level’.

However, with elections rapidly approaching, it remains to be seen whether or not South Africans will truly begin to take up their local grievances at the ballot box. Or, though the need for strong messages from voters to local government representatives has perhaps never before been greater, will South Africans once again stay away from polling stations in their numbers, like nobody’s business?

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