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Cape Town - With less than a year to go before the next general election, public opinion on government's ability to deliver basic services has sunk to its second-lowest recorded level.
According to the 2012 Development Indicators Report, released on Tuesday, just half of South Africans think the state is performing well when it comes to delivering basic services.
Coupled with this, the report also shows the number of service delivery protests hit an all-time high last year - there were 113 up to July 2012 - compared to only two during the whole of 2006.
Speaking at the release of the report in Cape Town, Deputy Minister in the Presidency Obed Bapela said the service delivery figures showed a worrying trend.
“It's not an issue of no money; it's an issue of efficiency. Service delivery remains a challenge and, indeed, it is a worrying element,” he told journalists.
According to the report, 51 percent of those surveyed, near the end of last year, thought government was performing well. This is three percent lower than in May last year.
The scale of the drop in satisfaction can be gauged from the figures recorded seven years earlier, in May 2004, when 81 percent of those polled believed government was performing well.
According to the report, the opinion data is based on regular surveys conducted by independent researcher Markinor.
On corruption, the report finds the results of the 2012
Corruption Perception Index (CPI) “show a setback in perception regarding the fight against corruption in South Africa”.
Such perceptions had increased from 2011 to 2012, “pushing the ranking of South Africa from 64th to 69th place internationally, out of 176 countries.
Further, the country's corruption perception score “is the second-lowest score for South Africa in the 16 years since its inclusion in Transparency International's CPI”.
The report - which shows South Africa's latest so-called corruption perception score is 4.30 on a scale that runs from one to 10 Ä says this is a “cause for concern and requires urgent attention”.
Minister in the Presidency Collins Chabane said according to the report the country was “making progress in implementing government's policies and programmes”.
On education indicators, he said the percentage of Matric passes had increased from 64 percent in 1994, to 73 percent in 2012.
On safety and security, he said the crime rate was coming down, “although it remains at a very high level”.
According to the document, serious crime rates - including property crime, contact crime, theft, commercial crime, and property damage and arson - all declined over the past decade.
The serious crime rate, per 100 000 of population, dropped to 3608.8 last year, from 3679.9 in 2011. This is way below the 5563 recorded a decade earlier (2002/03).
But the document also shows that drug-related crime in South Africa has almost tripled over the past nine years. In 2003/04, there were 62 689 reported cases; in 2011/12, there were 176 307.
There are two possible explanations for this - an increase in the effectiveness of the police, or an increase in the number of syndicates and dealers producing, distributing, and possessing narcotics, according to the report.
On the provision of houses, Chabane said the report showed there had been a “50 percent growth in formal housing” since 1994. This had resulted in an additional 5.7 million homes.
He said tax revenue had grown from R114 billion in the 1994/95 tax season, to R814bn in 2012/13. The number of taxpayers grew from 1.7m to 14m over the same period.
“These are notable achievements that have been attributed to our world-renowned efficient tax administration and, among others, the introduction of e-filing,” he said.
On so-called social cohesion, one of the report's development indicators, the document strikes a sombre note. It shows the percentage of South Africans “confident in a happy future for all races” has declined to 58 percent, down from the 85 percent recorded in 2004 and again in 2005.
The report also finds that the public's perceptions about race relations reached a record low of 39 percent. In 2004, the figure was 60 percent; in 2010, the year of the Soccer World Cup, it was 50 percent; and in 2011, 44 percent.
“This could be signalling an urgent need for sustainable nation-building initiatives aimed at improving social cohesion in the country,” it states.