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Fewer service delivery protests in 2019, with significant peak before elections

Gauteng remains the most prominent site of service delivery protests, followed by unusually prominent protest activity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

FILE: Alexandra protesters protest outside the City of Joburg offices in Sandton for better service delivery. Picture: Thomas Holder/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The year 2019 recorded fewer service delivery protests than in 2018, with a peak around the period just before elections.

This is according to Municipal IQ, a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation.

Municipal IQ collects data on service delivery protests staged against municipalities on its Municipal Hotspots Monitor; in order to quantify and better understand the ongoing nature and trends behind such events.

It's data revealed that 237 service delivery protests were recorded in 2018. The highest since 2004. In 2019, 217 service delivery protests were recorded, with a significant reduction between October and December.

“While the relative lull in service delivery protests does not mean that all is well in local government, communities appear not to be taking their unhappiness to the streets as frequently as they did around general elections," said Kevin Allan, MD of Municipal IQ.

Gauteng remains the most prominent site of service delivery protests, followed by unusually prominent protest activity in KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.

The Eastern Cape fell slightly in prominence, with the North West, Northern Cape and Mpumalanga also receding. The Free State remained relatively static in its contribution to protest levels, while Limpopo was slightly more conspicuous than usual.

“It may be possible for 2018 to keep the record for numbers of service delivery protests. There appears to be an opportunity to channel community engagement through democratic processes (like ward committees, petition processes and community meetings) to avert protests. With a challenging year likely to be ahead for local government, councillors and administrations must work collectively to ensure service delivery and consolidate this apparent goodwill," said Karen Heese, Economist as Municipal IQ.