Protesters on the N3 at Marianhill toll plaza. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN​
Protesters on the N3 at Marianhill toll plaza. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN​

There were more protests in 2018 than any other year since 2005 — but analysts are worried that there could be another spike this election year.

Municipal IQ‚ a specialised local government data and intelligence organisation‚ recorded 237 protests against municipalities across the country in 2018. This beat the previous record of 191 protests in 2014.

Worryingly‚ Municipal IQ on Wednesday raised the point‚ as one of its three key findings from 2018, that this new high came on the eve of an election‚ which could point to another rise as the country approaches the polls in May.

MD Kevin Allan said 2014 was a general election year and it remained to be seen whether 2019’s elections would spur protests to an even higher level.

In the second of its key findings‚ Municipal IQ suggested that the decline in the number of service delivery protests in Gauteng showed that “something was working” in the province.

“Between 2004 and 2018‚ Gauteng has tended to be the major site for service delivery protests — on average accounting for 24% of protests over this period‚ and reaching 34% in 2017. In 2018 it was different: the Eastern Cape far outstripped Gauteng and was followed by the Western Cape as the most protest-afflicted province for the year‚” the organisation said.

Municipal IQ economist Karen Heese said 2018’s results suggested that the Ntirhisano (“war room”) strategy of Gauteng may be yielding results in coordinating inter-governmental service-delivery solutions.

“It is also possible that the coalition arrangements in the province’s three metros allow for greater debate and representation in council structures‚ alleviating the need for street protests‚” Heese said.

A third finding was that there was a distinct correlation between economic recession‚ unemployment and service delivery protests.

“Protests‚ measured by quarter and compared to the previous quarter’s GDP‚ showed that an increase in service delivery protests correlated with economic retraction. Furthermore‚ rising unemployment correlated with an increase in such protests‚” Municipal IQ said.

Heese said that many of the protests recorded in 2018 “included the demand for municipalities to create employment opportunities‚ or reflected unhappiness with how these jobs were allocated”.