A third of people in SA are happy with government. Here’s why

2017-03-16 10:48

Who’s the happiest with the government following the 2016 local government election? Those who are not economically active.

People who are unemployed and on the job hunt are least happy.

This is according to a survey conducted by Good Governance Africa, an independent non-governmental organisation. The purpose of the survey was to get more insight into what happened in voters and non voters’ minds during last year’s local government election.

Chrissy Dube, from Good Governance Africa, said that the questionable part in the survey was that there was a gap in people’s knowledge of coalitions.

“If people don’t have knowledge of coalitions in local government, how could coalitions work in provincial or even national government?”

The survey reported that voters were unhappy before the 2016 elections and observed a marginal increase in happiness after the elections.

32.9% of respondents said they were happy with both local and national government. 13.9% said they were happy with local government and unhappy with national government, while 15.4% were unhappy with local government and happy with national government and 37% of the respondents were unhappy with both local and national government.

What is key to note is that those who are not economically active – these are people who are completely dependent on someone else for their livelihood – had the highest positive response rate to both local and national government, with 38.5%. Those who were unemployed and seeking employment were the least happy before the 2016 local elections, with 28.3% neither happy with both local nor national government.


Among the provinces KwaZulu-Natal had the highest positive response with both local and national government satisfaction at 58.6%, Gauteng had the lowest levels of happiness with both local and national government. The majority of respondents (50.4%) who were happy with both levels of government came from the rural areas, and the respondents who were unhappy with both local and national government (48.5%) were those who live in informal settlements in urban areas.

Room for improvement

The survey reflected that the people felt there is much room for improvement within government. 58.5% of the respondents said all areas of government – which included administration, economic development and service delivery – needed attention. 20.5% of all the respondents specifically said service delivery needed to improve.

Voter apathy

With the variation in peoples’ sentiments about how satisfied they are with the levels of government, it is worthy to note that a total of 32.7% did not vote, 11.6% registered and did not vote and 21.1% did not register at all. However this is not all bad news according to Good Governance Africa executive director, Dr Alain Tschudin.

“In the face of feeling excluded from governance in the country, citizens assert the recognition that their votes do matter; they are prepared to deploy these strategically, either by withholding their vote and abstaining from proceedings or by voting for other parties than those usually supported” said Tschudin.

“This demonstrates a remarkable embodiment of agency on the part of voters and confirms a deepening maturation of voting behaviour in the country.”

Voting patterns

The survey also inquired about how the respondents vote. When asked about their voting pattern over the years 60% voted for the same party that they had always supported, 7.1% voted for a different party from previous years and 29% abstained from voting altogether. The survey showed that the unemployed were the majority of the respondents who voted for the same party as they always do, while those employed in the informal sector were the majority of those who did not vote for the same party.

The reasons for voting for the parties they had always voted for were mainly due to respondents that believing in the party’s ability to govern and loyalty, with 19.8% influenced by a reliance on income grants and pensions. The survey report also noted that some voters voted for the same political parties because they had “given up hope”, others said there were a lack of attractive alternative parties to vote for and a small percentage of voters were influenced by fear and/or intimidation.

“Our respondents also shared that they would adapt their behaviour if another party arose that better suited their needs, if they reached a tipping point, if more information was available on government or on their rights, or finally if competitors produced evidence of better governance,” said Tschudin.

With some political parties already heavily campaigning to gain more voters in the next election, the 2019 national elections are bound to be interesting.

Here is the full Good Governance Africa voter sentiment survey report:

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April 22 2018