Date: Nov 2, 2021 Type: Country:

South Africa: Service delivery must be prioritised even after the elections are done and dusted

With election day done and counting of results of the 2021 local government elections underway, Amnesty International South Africa calls on those who win to ensure that they prioritise service delivery and cleaning up corruption in the country’s municipalities. 

Service delivery took centre stage as South Africa geared up for the elections, but this is not something that should only take preference ahead of the polls but is a human rights issue that must be an everyday priority in order to provide people with dignity.

“In recent times, the quality of service delivery has largely been weakened by corruption and mismanagement. This, at the expense of people living in the country who are constitutionally entitled to have their basic needs met and to live with dignity,” Amnesty International South Africa’s Executive Director Shenilla Mohamed said. 

“The failure of the government to deliver on these rights has been well documented by the media, civil society, and fed-up residents. Almost 20 million people in South Africa do not have access to safe, sufficient, and reliable water and over 3 million people do not have access to a basic water supply. Meanwhile, when it comes to sanitation, 14.1 million people do not have access to safe sanitation facilities” Shenilla Mohamed said. 

It is also important to note that after 27 years of freedom, the ability to access quality service delivery – or any service delivery – in South Africa to a large extent still hinges on the colour of your skin and your gender.

Studies have shown that black women in poor and impoverished communities continue to bear the brunt of the failure of local government to ensure that the basic rights to sufficient food and water, adequate housing, and health care services, to dignity and equal enjoyment of rights and freedoms are upheld. All fundamental rights protected by the South African Constitution.

“Service delivery is the foundation for the full enjoyment of human rights by all who live in South Africa and the state has a constitutional obligation to take action to ensure access to these rights,” Shenilla Mohamed said. 

“The low voter turnout shows just how angry and tired people are of their rights being constantly violated. They have lost faith in the system.

“Those who are voted into power after these elections must serve the people, stop the politicking and deliver on human rights obligations,” she said.

Amnesty International South Africa participated as observers in this year’s local government elections. 

As election observers, Amnesty International South Africa assessed whether voters, candidates, and their supporters were protected from human rights violations, ensuring the elections were free and fair. As election observers we were also on the lookout for any violence or threats carried out at polling stations.

While election day was predominantly peaceful, Amnesty International South Africa is still concerned about the incident where a journalist was arrested by police at a voting station in Orlando East, Soweto, and where citizens who were reportedly calming the incident were manhandled by officers. 

“Journalists must be allowed to report on elections and voting, within the parameters of the law, without hindrance and abuse,” Shenilla Mohamed said.

“It is also unacceptable that citizens, who were filming the incident on their cellphones, were reportedly manhandled by the police. The excessive use of force by the police, any time and anywhere, is unacceptable.This is in violation of people’s rights.”

We note the Electoral Commission of South Africa’s announcement that it would embark on a fact finding process so that it can establish the facts in relation to what happened.

However, Amnesty International South Africa will be writing to the commission to ensure that the investigation is done and to ensure that the IEC makes its findings known.


Journalist Ziniko Mhlaba told Amnesty International South Africa that he was told by police that he was being arrested because he was “allegedly obstructing justice", he asked for an explanation and said he was there reporting and showed the police his accreditation. He was taken to the police station for processing. He has since been released.

South Africa held its local government elections on 1 November 2021.

Amnesty International South Africa’s #DignityNow campaign calls on the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to ensure that all municipalities fulfil their constitutional mandate to provide basic services to everyone in South Africa by prioritising: 

 Accountability: To commitments made at all levels of local government to ensure the equitable delivery of basic services. This includes monitoring the progress of municipalities in reaching service delivery goals by being responsive to the needs of communities, creating opportunities for active community participation and providing services in a timely, progressive and sustainable manner. 

Transparency: To ensure there is accountability for the abuse of power and the mismanagement of public funds at all levels of local government during the pandemic and going forward. This includes prioritising reforms that improve financial management systems; hiring skilled personnel; ending impunity for crimes of corruption; promoting good governance and access to information, particularly when it comes to decision making.  

Access to information: To ensure that municipalities adhere to the legal requirement to consult with communities and provide information and feedback on budget and plans. This includes running robust awareness campaigns on accessible platforms that promote the active participation of communities.

Take action here and call on the South African government to give people #DignityNow.

For more information or to request an interview, please contact:

Genevieve Quintal, Media and Communications Officer, Amnesty International South Africa: +27 (0)64 890 9224;

Public Document 


Amnesty International South Africa office, 97 Oxford Road, Saxonwold, Johannesburg, 2196