Stronger citizen action needed over South African social security, our research finds

Screen Shot 2018-05-09 at 10.25.23Social accountability initiatives that aim to engage citizens over South African social security entitlements have not strengthened the state-society relationship. It is also “difficult to attribute action to remove gaps in service delivery” to these initiatives.

These are conclusions of a case study on social protection programmes in South Africa, hailed as the government’s chief initiative for tackling inequality. The case study forms part of our global research project for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Our researchers found that while there is widespread information available on entitlements in South Africa, citizen action to secure these is not strong.

“Citizens are not demanding better services nor are they accessing any available [state-citizen] interfaces,” the report, authored by consultant Ghazia Aslam states. “It is important that social accountability activities, in addition to providing better interfaces and information, also ensure that they enable citizens to mobilise to use these interfaces and to act on this information.”

Our researchers did find that some gaps in social protection programme delivery had been closed by the South African Social Security Agency, but were not able to directly attribute these implemented improvements to demands by citizens. One challenge to successful citizen action was that “many beneficiaries we met simply do not know that social grants come from the government,” according to the report. Another was a lack of agency on the part of citizens, it also states. “Most people have never thought about taking action, despite having faced disruptions in services or wanting a closer pay-point and shorter waiting times.”

The case study is one of four produced by Development Pathways’ research project, which has also published a final report on the findings and a technical guidance note providing practitioners in social protection with a step-by-step guide to mainstreaming social accountability.

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