2019 Service Delivery Uptick

5th April 2019

Background: Municipal IQ, a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities (see methodology note) on its Municipal Hotspots Monitor; in order to quantify and better understand the ongoing nature and trends behind such events.

Emerging trends for 2019:

  1. An uptick in protests – the busiest first quarter on record

2019 has, in the past 3 months, seen an uptick in protest levels, after a lull in the last few months of 2018. Figure 1 (below) shows protests per year.

Kevin Allan, M.D. of Municipal IQ notes: “As was widely anticipated, protests have surged – to a new record for the first quarter. It is likely that protesters are making the most of the opportunity to draw politicians’ attention to their grievances in the run-up to elections”.20

Figure 1: Major service delivery protests, by year (2004 –2019*)

  1. The Eastern Cape has overtaken Gauteng as the most protest-prone province

Averaged over the entire 2004 – 2019 period, Gauteng dominated as the most protest-prone province; in 2018 the Eastern Cape overtook Gauteng, and remains (just slightly) ahead of Gauteng as the most protest-prone province (so far) in 2019 (see Figure 2).

Figure 2: Service delivery protests by province, 2019*

Karen Heese, Economist as Municipal IQ comments: “There is noteworthy pressure on Eastern Cape municipalities – not only in Nelson Mandela Bay’s communities, where repeated protests have taken place, especially in Motherwell, but also further afield, in towns like Steynsburg and Lady Grey”.

  1. Xenophobic elements to protests, while a concern, are not that common

While service delivery protests can turn on foreign-owned businesses who are subjected to looting, arson, and intimidation, this was only recorded in 4% of service delivery protests staged since the outbreak of xenophobia in May 2008.

Karen Heese, Economist as Municipal IQ cautions: “It is imperative that there is a concerted effort by all politicians from all parties to build respect for foreign nationals’ rights, and to be accountable for service delivery failures rather than blaming these on migrancy”.

Methodology: Municipal IQ’s Hotspots Monitor databases protests staged by community members (identified down to a particular ward/s) against a municipality, as recorded by the media (or other public domain sources such as SAPS press releases). Such protesters raise issues that are the responsibility or perceived responsibility of local government (such as councillor accountability, the quality and pace of basic service delivery, and in metro areas, housing). These protests may be violent (impinging on the freedom of movement or property of others, including the state) or peaceful, but there is a clear dissatisfaction with the management of a municipality. Not included are issues falling outside of local government’s service delivery mandate such as demarcation, industrial relation disputes or clear party political issues (including candidate lists). Where protests are sustained over several days or weeks, these are recorded as a single entry, with qualitative details updated on the database.


For further details, contact: e-mail karen@municipaliq.co.za