Window into political perceptions in Gauteng

The Gauteng-City Region Observatory, a partnership between the University of Johannesburg, the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, the Gauteng Provincial Government and organized local government in Gauteng, released the results from its bi-annual Quality of Life Survey this week.

Based on interviews with 30,000 respondents, the survey gives an insight into the views of residents on politics, service delivery and social attitudes in South Africa’s economic heartland.

What do the results tell us about perceptions of life in the Gauteng City Region?

Citizens relatively satisfied with service delivery

The survey reports that overall there is “relatively high satisfaction” with basic services, health and education. For instance, 83% of Gauteng respondents are satisfied with water services, 65% with public health services and 71% with local education services.

There has, however, been a drop in satisfaction with energy services: down from 78% in 2013 to 72% in 2015, possibly reflecting the impact of load-shedding.

Citizens are not impressed by government’s efforts when it comes to helping grow the economy though: There are low levels of satisfaction (just 22%) with government initiatives to grow the economy.

Local government — room for improvement

Just because citizens are satisfied with service delivery doesn’t mean they’re singing local governments’ praises. On an index of 13 services typically provided by local government, 59% of Gauteng residents are satisfied. But only 34% are satisfied with the performance of local government generally.

In 2013, 37% of respondents were satisfied with local government. This dropped to 34% in 2015.

In 2013, 51% were firmly dissatisfied with local government. This has dropped to 45%.

How local government treats people is important

How local government departments and councillors engage with citizens has a big impact on levels of satisfaction.

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.

58% of those who were satisfied with their councillor were also satisfied with local government generally. Amongst those dissatisfied with their councilor, only 16% were satisfied with local government.

Losing faith in national government

Attitudes toward national government and the state of the country are not rosy. More than half of respondents (61%) agree with the statement ‘The country is going in the wrong direction.’

Political events like ‘Nenegate,’ President Jacob Zuma’s financial minister reshuffle decision fiasco, where South Africa had three finance ministers over four days in December 2015, clearly knocked satisfaction with national government. Dissatisfaction with national government started of at 39% in July/August 2015 and climbed to 48% in February 2016, then recovered, according to the survey.

Distrust of democracy in local elections

Respondents are circumspect of the upcoming municipal elections. Only 52% agree that the municipal elections will be free and fair, down from 66% who agreed that the 2011 elections were free and fair.

Social distrust and prejudice persist 

In Gauteng, some gains are being made in alleviating racial prejudice. However, it’s clear that distrust between races continues to be a reality. In 2013, 66% of respondents agreed with the statement ‘blacks and whites will never really trust each other.’ This dropped to 58% in 2015.

There is a big difference to this sentiment by race, though. While 62% of African respondents agreed that blacks and whites will never trust each other (down from 73% in 2013), 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.

Violent attitudes towards gay and lesbian people persist: 14% of residents think it is acceptable to be violent towards gay and lesbian people.


Access the full report from the Gauteng-City Region Observatory.

Brendon Bosworth is’s editor.

Photo copyright Imraan Hendricks.




Read older posts from this section

Leave a Reply