Original Research - Special Collection: Practical Theology

South Africa’s service-delivery crisis: From contextual understanding to diaconal response

Ignatius Swart
HTS Teologiese Studies / Theological Studies | Vol 69, No 2 | a1996 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/hts.v69i2.1996 | © 2013 Ignatius Swart | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 20 April 2013 | Published: 10 September 2013

About the author(s)

Ignatius Swart, Research Institute for Theology and Religion, University of South Africa, South Africa


This article proceeded from the assumption that the theme of service delivery in present-day South Africa could well be qualified by the notion of ‘crisis’, to the extent that this qualification, from a theological perspective and on the basis of comparative social analysis, well recalls the statements in such critical and profound theological documents as The Kairos Document and Evangelical Witness in South Africa on the ‘crisis’ in the latter years of apartheid. The further recognition that the theme of service delivery constitutes an essentially new focus for practical-theological scholarship in South Africa led the author, who has a pertinent interest in the field of Christian diaconia, to thereupon go the full circle of practical-theological interpretation in developing such a focus. This was done by, firstly, attempting to develop a deeper contextual understanding of the problem of service delivery in the country on the basis of the prevailing debate on service delivery in South Africa, after which the ideas from conceptualisations of two different modes of diaconal practice within contexts of endemic poverty in the practical-theological literature were explored. The discussion concluded with a more pertinent consideration of the extent to which these two conceptualisations could be taken as providing direction in conceptualising a transformational diaconal response to the current service-delivery problem.


South Africa; service delivery crisis; Christian diaconia; diaconal practice; poverty


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