Examining consumers perceptions on water supply and sanitation services : a case study of Ohlange Township, Durban, South Africa.
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Governments in many developing countries have stepped up efforts to provide water and sanitation services sustainably to as many people as possible. In some instances, time frames for provision of services to all of their citizens have been set. While these are commendable efforts, the question whether these services are provided efficiently remains unanswered. In South Africa, although the government conducts consumer satisfaction surveys, seldom are citizens consulted for their views. While its efforts have been hailed as a success in the postapartheid era, there have been many obstacles in the supply process. The assumption has been that the government knows what the citizens want and gives it them, irrespective of their concerns. This study interrogated this assumption as its overall research objective, aiming to evaluate whether a supply-driven approach is effective in satisfying the demands of the consumers. As such the study sought to gain insight into the perceptions of Ohlange Township residents in Inanda, Durban, regarding water supply and sanitation services. The study found out that many of these residents could not afford to pay for basic services, although they are currently expected to pay for some of the costs of service provision. However, in a resource-constrained environment, the government can no longer sustainably provide these services without recovering costs. In this case, the government faces the challenge of balancing its constitutional mandate of providing all citizens with basic services and the demand by the poor for improved services they cannot afford. In this case, supply-led delivery system is severely limited in fully addressing consumer demands. This approach also results in poor service delivery due to inefficient resource management. It also disempowers communities because they are not involved in decision-making processes. Based on the study findings, the demand-led approach, one that is consumer-driven, is recommended. This approach puts the consumer at the centre of the delivery of basic services; allows consumers to participate in decision-making processes and encourages them to honour their obligations by paying for the services received. 11