/ 16 April 2024

Load-shedding and corruption are major concerns for voters, survey finds 

Matla Power Station Credit Eskom
Eskom is not complying with the National Environmental Management Air Quality Act, which presents the threat of a number of coal power plants having to shut down in the next year, (Eskom)

Ahead of next month’s general elections, a survey has found that South Africans want political parties to prioritise grappling with the country’s energy crisis and rooting out corruption. 

The majority of respondents (85.5%) chose load-shedding as the main issue that needed immediate resolution, according to the survey by the international development organisation, the Nguvu Collective.

The Nguvu Collective survey lists corruption as a close second issue, with 83% of respondents saying it was intertwined with the energy crisis.

“The objective of the survey was to understand the pulse of the nation ahead of the elections and place citizen’s voices publicly for the political parties to take notice,” said the Nguvu Collective’s Noxolo Mfocwa. 

The survey, conducted in February after the 29 May election date was announced, asked 3,377 people from across all nine provinces — through email and social media — what they thought the country’s pressing issues were. The respondents were 48.2% female, 51.2% male and the remainder were trans and non-binary people.

Women and girls have been the most affected by the energy crisis because they carry out the majority of household duties, according to the Nguvu Collective.  

A report by Modern Energy Cooking Services in 2023 shows that at least 77.7% of households in South Africa use electricity for cooking. When load-shedding hits, it becomes the responsibility of women and girls to figure out alternative ways to cook for their families. 

“Depending on their class background, this could mean anything from cooking on open fires fuelled by biomass and coal to cooking on paraffin or gas stoves in lower and middle-class families that do not have access to off-grid power such as solar,” said Mfocwa. 

Transparency International reports that South Africa falls under the category of “flawed democracies” after it scored 41 on a scale from 0 (“highly corrupt”) to 100 (“very clean”) on its Corruption Perceptions Index

Out of the 180 states in the index, with countries ranked according to having the most honest public sector, South Africa came in 83rd.

“The impunity around corruption makes it very difficult for the public to trust the government,” the Nguvu Collective said.

At 79.8%, crime was the third most pressing issue for respondents in the survey, which highlighted that the government needs to make urgent interventions to deal with the rise in youth unemployment and inoperational public infrastructure. 

Other priorities that came in the top 10 were healthcare, education funding, gender-based violence and femicide, food security and the immigration crisis.

During the release of the second-quarter crime statistics for 2023-24, Police Minister

Bheki Cele said South Africa had recorded 10,516 rapes, 1,514 cases of attempted

murder and 14,401 assaults against female victims in July, August, and September.

In the same period, 881 women were murdered.

The Nguvu Collective said these statistics show that there is a lack of civic participation

from the younger age groups, despite people aged 18 to 34 years constituting a third of the population.

“The key similarity between our survey and the national voter registration process is that

they were both conducted for the most part online — which could be directly connected to the level of access to the internet young people in South Africa have,” the Nguvu Collective survey found.

This is reflective of the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s voter registration statistics which show that the 18 to 29 age cohort has the lowest number of registered voters. 

Reflecting on a country where youth unemployment is at 43.4% and the average cost of data is R34.69 a gigabyte, the Nguvu Collective report said: “It is obvious that due to socio-economic reasons, young people would be largely excluded from any form of online civic engagement.”

The organisation said it would present its findings to political parties and organisations to assist citizens in making an informed decision at the polls on 29 May.