Our Political Risk Barometer is a real-time calculation of political risk in the eight metropolitan municipalities (‘metros’) from the latest local government election on 1 November 2021. Political risk is difficult to measure, particularly on a day-to-day basis, but we’ve created the Barometer as a tool to do just that. Our line chart race below, created with Flourish, is a visual representation of events in the eight metros over the last 20 months.

‘Political risk’ refers to the stability, transparency, and effectiveness of the metro councils. Are councils stable or do coalitions collapse? Is there oversight and transparency? Is council time used to improve service delivery or to fight political battles?

Why focus on political risk?

The political health of a metro determines its financial health and service delivery. A metro with a stable council is more likely to have a functioning mayoral committee and senior professional staff. It is more likely to meet its deadlines for budgets and financial reporting. Political stability is not enough by itself to ensure service delivery and financial health, but it is a necessary condition. 

Political stability is not the only measure of political risk – some of the largest increases in risk have come from political killings and poor audit results. Political risk, financial risk, service delivery and community health are tightly woven together. 

How do you calculate political risk?

The Barometer measures political risk from 0 (no risk) to 10 (absolute collapse of government). A score between 0 and 4 is ‘low risk’, between 4 and 7 is ‘moderate risk’, and 7 to 10 is ‘high risk’. Mangaung was placed under administration in April 2022 and its score went straight to 10.

Political stability is a large source of risk. Five of the eight metros have had coalition governments since 2021 and their risk scores shot up at the beginning of November to reflect this. 

Two coalitions fight for control of Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni, Tshwane, and Nelson Mandela Bay: the DA-led Multi Party Coalition (MPC) and the ANC-led Government of Local Unity (GLU). An ANC-led coalition in Ethekwini has been more stable but the metro is hobbled by high levels of political violence and corruption. 

Mangaung has had the highest risk for most of the period even though the ANC won a narrow majority in 2021. Political interference from provincial and national government plus growing factionalism within the ANC have crippled the metro.

20 months of politics in one visualisation

The line chart race below shows the daily changes in political risk from November 2021. To read more about the events that affected the Barometer, please read our MetroMonitor reports: Nov 2021 – Feb 2022, Mar – Jun 2022, Jul – Oct 2022, Nov 2022 – Jan 2023, Feb – May 2023, and June 2023.



Written by Paul Berkowitz

July 10, 2023

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