Dear friends and fellow South Africans,
Ask any town planner to identify the single most critical key to their success, and they will say, “accurate information”. It is extremely difficult to develop effective programmes and design appropriate policy in the absence of the facts and figures. For our Government to be responsive to our people’s needs, and pre-emptive in meeting the needs of tomorrow, it must have accurate information on the lay of the land.
Thus the findings of Census 2011, which were released this week, are the focus of great interest and debate. This morning, 400 Members of Parliament received a large glossy publication titled, “The South Africa I Know, The Home I Understand”. Filled with high-resolution, colour photographs, this publication speaks of significant expenditure.
Considering the phenomenal task accomplished by Statistics South Africa in planning and implementing Census 2011, and collating all the gathered data, it would seem mean-spirited to question the cost of this publication. What I must question though is its accuracy, because that is the very point of its existing.
I am not alone in questioning the facts and figures. The Director of Actuarial Research at the University of Cape Town, who was part of the team contracted to edit the results of Census 2011, worries that some of the results are improbable. Instead of having 3 months to check the Census findings, as planned, the team had just nine days, for they only received the results on the 10th of October.
It seems someone was determined to meet deadlines regardless of the consequences, and the 10th of October is a significant date. In his Foreword, Statistician-General, Mr Pali Lehohla, writes, “Today, 385 days from the 10th day of the 10th month in the 10th year of the millennium, I am pleased to release the results of this endeavour to the President and the peoples of South Africa and the world.” The Foreword is dated 30 October 2012.
That is the beginning of numbers that don’t quite add up which, for a project of this nature, is disastrous. The Statistician-General boasts of “an army of 156 000 men and women dressed in yellow bibs who combed the length and breadth of this our beautiful country.” Yet the opening chapter reads, “Just over a year ago at midnight on 9th October 2011, more than 130 000 fieldworkers took to the streets, knocking on the doors of almost 14 million households across South Africa.”
Aside from wondering how many households answered their doors at midnight to fill in census forms, the fact that the number of fieldworkers has been estimated to a figure of give or take 26 000 doesn’t offer much encouragement as to the accuracy of the rest of the data.
The report states, for instance, that just over a third of the population is under the age of 15. The corresponding graph reads “29%”. More worrying is the finding that, in contrast to 1996 and 2001, Census 2011 shows a “decrease of males and females in the age categories 5 – 9 and 10 – 14.”
According to the report, “This was partially because of the increase in mortality in the last decade. This steadily declined from 1998.”
I have struggled to make sense of this, but the red flag was the finding that child mortality is on the rise. If that is the case, we have some serious questions to ask our country’s leadership, including why, and why did we not know.
Upon the IFP’s enquiry, the Minister of Health assured us that child mortality is not on the rise. In fact, in January 2012, Statistics SA released its own report on mortality rates in South Africa which showed mortality rates decreasing across the board. Infant mortality in particular showed a marked decline. So why the contradiction?
It is also strange that Stats SA places infant mortality at 37,9 deaths per 1 000 live births, while this year’s Pan-African Paediatrics Conference in Johannesburg was working with a figure of 55 per 1 000. South Africa in fact came under criticism for having the financial resources to lower the infant mortality rate, whilst having a higher infant mortality rate that other countries with a similar income. Simply put, Government could do more to save babies’ lives.
When looking at the results of Census 2011, one of the first figures one searches for is the rate of unemployment. The unemployed, as defined in this Census, comprises people who were not working during the reference period, but were looking for work and were available to work.
That is a very specific group of people, which makes it all the more concerning that Census 2011 raises the level of the unemployed to more than 5.5 million people. That means that almost 30% of the labour force in South Africa is available to work and looking for work, but remains unemployed.
And in KwaZulu Natal, that figure is 33%. If these are accurate figures, we need to interrogate the implications.
The problem with inaccurate information, as I said, is the detrimental effect it has on efficient and appropriate planning. Already economists have warned that, based on Census 2011, KwaZulu Natal may see a cut in its percentage share of the national budget. According to the Census, KwaZulu Natal no longer has the largest population in South Africa, and the equitable share formula applied by the National Treasury to determine provincial budgets relies significantly on population size.
Renowned Economist, Mike Schussler, believes that Census 2011 may have undercounted the population of KwaZulu Natal by as much as two or three million people.
Interestingly, the Chief Executive Officer of the Durban Chamber of Commerce and Industry doubts that KwaZulu Natal will see a budget cut, and said, “One would only have to question if KwaZulu Natal was getting its fair share of the equitable share of the budget when the IFP controlled this province.”
The simple answer to that, is no. Throughout our time in governance, both under the Nationalist regime and the rule of the ANC, the IFP was forced to continually fight for a bigger share of the budget for KwaZulu Natal, based on the magnitude of need.
Indeed, when I was Chief Minister of KwaZulu, Deloitte and Touche confirmed that we received less per capita than any other province. That state of affairs continued for several years into democracy. Unsurprisingly, though, when the ANC took control of the province, the budget allocated to KwaZulu Natal suddenly increased.
One has to wonder whether the inaccuracies in the findings of Census 2011 are due to a flaw in the process, stubborn adherence to a defective timeframe, or something far more sinister. This afternoon, the IFP has tabled a motion in Parliament to debate the accuracy of the findings of Census 2011 and why they contradict some of the things we’ve been told by Government.
51,8 million people deserve to know.
Yours in the service of our nation,
Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP
Contact: Ms Liezl van der Merwe MP, Press Officer to Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi MP, on 082 729 2510.