Local authorities and other public entities that are responsible for provision of social services are failing to deliver basic services such as water, waste management, sanitation facilities, health facilities, electricity, roads and housing among others. Poor service delivery by local government authorities is a major threat to the fight against poverty and injustice. This problem has persisted because of lack of far-reaching democratic local governance reforms in the sector underpinned by proper management of resources and adoption of social accountability measures in service delivery. The 2008 -2009 cholera outbreak that killed almost 4000 people is a constant reminder of the danger of poor environmental service delivery yet local authorities are increasingly becoming unaccountable despite relying on rates paid by residents. Some services are not equitably distributed between high income and low-income areas. In many cases, the views of residents in budgeting and planning processes are not considered. There is simply limited social accountability in service delivery and unresponsive local governance systems.
The limited knowledge and capacity amongst residents to demand for adequate and equitable provision of services is a major issue. Sometimes knowledge is resident within resident associations themselves and not the generality of the citizens. This challenge is concomitant to limited community awareness of the right to live in a clean and healthy environment, access to information and participation in decision making processes. Therefore, the combined effect of poverty, poor service delivery and lack of knowledge about environmental rights and how to claim them has generated a serious decrease in quality of life for many citizens. While the political and economic meltdown adversely affected service delivery, it also generated fear and lethargy amongst residents to actively identify, monitor and act on cases of environmental injustice related to service delivery and unaccountable municipalities. Limited inclusive community consultation and dialogue between residents and local authorities also perpetuates injustice.