Review Article

Exploring service delivery protests in post-apartheid South African municipalities: A literature review

Bethuel S. Ngcamu
The Journal for Transdisciplinary Research in Southern Africa | Vol 15, No 1 | a643 | DOI: | © 2019 Bethuel S. Ngcamu | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 29 November 2018 | Published: 14 November 2019

About the author(s)

Bethuel S. Ngcamu, Department of Governance and Management, Walter Sisulu University, East London, South Africa


Background: This literature study argues that some studies published in South Africa on service delivery protests at municipal level are unacademic, as they are based on mainly untested, unreliable and unvalidated perceptions.

Aim: This study addresses issues such as how service delivery protests have been conceptualised scientifically by researchers from the perspective of practice, policy and industry; how the conceptualisation has evolved over time; interconnections, if any, between service delivery protests and other elements; dominant dimensions or themes in the scientific literature on service delivery protests; and the impact of lack of public participation on service delivery.

Method: The study adopts a hermeneutic framework, with the literature obtained classified, mapped, critically assessed, themes and arguments developed.

Results: There is a paucity of studies conducted and published between 1994 and 2000 on service delivery protests. Secondly, most studies are narrative analyses of protest events not grounded in any research philosophy, tradition, theory or framework. Lastly, most of the studies are qualitative, with no evidence of reliability and validity being tested and, consequently, acceptability of their findings.

Conclusion: This study is expected to play an important role in shaping government policies and practices and assisting in planning to mitigate service delivery protests and also contribute to the scientific knowledge regarding how scholars perceive service delivery protests. It depicts gaps in the service delivery protests at a municipal level to draw future scholars to conduct empirical studies with an aim to contribute to theory, concept and policy and advise decision-makers at municipal levels.


Civil society; Hermeneutic framework; participation; service delivery protest; South Africa.


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