POOR service delivery, not a controversial sex life, could destroy President Jacob Zuma's popularity, the findings of a TNS Research Survey showed yesterday.
TNS's Neil Higgs said the survey was conducted among a sample of 2000 South African adults living in the seven major metropolitans across the country.
The subjects were interviewed face-to-face in their homes for the survey measured to have an error margin of less than 2,5percent.
The survey used last year's April general election as its starting point in establishing how the current government has fared since its election nine months ago.
Zuma's approval level rose from 40percent at the beginning of 2009 to 52percent at the time of the election and stepped up to 58percent in November in the same year.
This was despite serious reservations at the time concerning Zuma's practice of polygamy and 74percent of adults in the metros saying it was a problem for a man to have more than one wife.
"It is clear that many ordinary citizens separate their approval of Zuma as president from his private life," Higgs said.
"Indeed, while just 38percent of people feel that a leader's morality should be beyond approach, a half do not expect this and 55percent feel that the press should respect a leader's private life," he said.
But the Brand Leadership Academy Public Service Excellence Awards' 2009 ImagegaugeT scores for local government posed a threat to Zuma's popularity as it stood on an extreme low of 40 out of 100.
This score was the lowest ever seen using this corporate reputation model and it showed there was extreme unhappiness with the performance of government.
While local government was seen to be particularly poor on leadership skills, its ability to manage taxpayers' money and to deliver on promises. It also scored high on being perceived as corrupt, slow, bureaucratic and treating people unfairly.
Some controversial national government decisions were included in the survey and out of the people interviewed, 61percent criticised the cost of ministerial vehicles and 37percent felt Mo Shaik's appointment as head of state security was a mistake.
But the majority, 54percent, supported the police ministry's "shoot to kill" declaration policy.
Meanwhile, 44percent of young black youth in the metros aged between 18 and 24 supported ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema, but 43percent were against him.
Only 27percent of adults supported what Malema says and 59percent of them felt he should be disciplined by the ANC.
The survey also found that about 63percent of respondents believed that the taxi industry had too much power and 69percent thought the Bus Rapid Transit system was a way to go. But 45percent felt the government should have consulted more with the taxi industry on the system.
The judiciary was also put in the spotlight and only 44percent of the people interviewed believed judges in South Africa were free of political interference while 55percent have confidence in the Constitutional Court. - Sapa