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2014 SONA claims revisited: Zuma on service delivery

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Piped water and rising expectations


“When 95% of households have access to water, the 5% who still need to be provided for, feel they cannot wait a moment longer. Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations.”



This was an odd statement. Without “access to water” people die. It follows that all South Africans therefore have some or other “access to water”, be it piped, bottled, from water tankers, rain water tanks, streams or dams.

What exactly Zuma meant by the phrase was unclear, as was the source of his claim. We examined a number of similar claims in a report published in 2013. South Africa’s then water and environmental affairs minister, Edna Molewa, previously claimed that 94.7% of South Africans have access to “clean and safe drinking water”. Her spokesman, Mava Scott, claimed in 2013 that 96.4% of all households had access to “piped water”.

The 2011 national census put the figure of households with “access to piped water” at 91.2%. The 2012 general household survey stated that 90.8% of households had “access to piped water”. The figures differ from province to province. In the Eastern Cape, for instance, only 79% of households were found to have access to piped water.

When we spoke to him in 2013, Scott explained that “[w]hen we talk about piped water, we are normally referring to infrastructure and people have access to water coming out of that infrastructure”. As recent violent water protests in South Africa’s North West province have shown, having a tap in your yard, home or street, doesn’t mean you have water or that the water is “clean and safe”.

Nationally there has been growing dissatisfaction over the quality of water. According to the 2012 general household survey only “60.1% of households rated the quality of water-related services they received as ‘good’”.

“Satisfaction has, however, been eroding steadily since 2005 when 76.4% of users rated the services as good. Residents of Free State, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape have consistently been least satisfied with the quality of water. In 2012, 15.1% of households in Free State felt that their water smelled bad compared to 11.7% of Mpumalanga households and only 2.4% of Gauteng households. Free State households were most likely to feel that their water was unsafe to drink (15.1%), not clear (16.5%) and not tasting well (15.2%).”

Zuma’s suggestion that violent service delivery protests could be attributed to the “rising expectations” of the “5% who still need to be provided for”, was characterised as “spin-doctoring” by a number of political commentators and opposition parties following his State of the Nation address.

Three million houses delivered


“In housing, about 3 million housing units and more than 855,000 serviced sites were delivered since 1994 [up to December 2013].”



The department of performance monitoring and evaluation’s 2012 development indicators showed that about 3.3-million housing units had either been completed or were “in progress”.

According to Xolani Xundu, a spokesman in the department of human settlements, 2,799,702 “houses and units” were delivered from 1994 to December 2013. He told Africa Check last year the number of “serviced sites” delivered over that period came to 876,774.

2013 report by the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) pointed out that housing figures from different government sources were often contradictory.

Five hundred informal settlements replaced


“Nearly 500 informal settlements have been replaced with quality housing and basic services over the past five years.”



According to the department of human settlements the figure was correct, but the data did not exist in a single collated form, and referred only to basic services as it did not necessarily include housing.

The department’s Victor Rajkumar told Africa Check at the time that there were “myriad source documents” from which the department gathered its information. While no “list” existed showing that 500 informal settlements had been upgraded, Rajkumar said data from various sources indicated “at least 500 interventions or upgrading interventions” in informal settlements.

Defining the extent and status of informal settlements in South Africa remains a contentious issue.

The baseline used to measure the number of informal settlements in South Africa dates from 2009. It states that there are approximately 2,700 informal settlements across the country, and that households in these settlements continue to grow at around 3% per annum.

A report from the Housing Development Agency suggested that the number of households living in informal settlements had stabilised since 2001. In 2011 there were approximately 1.66-million households in informal residential areas or shacks not in a backyard.

Kate Tissington from the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI) told Africa Check last year that while government “likes to talk about upgrading settlements”, the reality was that very little had been done. According to Tissington, “delivery figures around informal settlement upgrading are often very ambiguous, sometimes referring to formal housing projects and often hiding the removal of people from settlements and the growth of households living in backyard shacks”.

Additional reading

Report: President Jacob Zuma’s sixth State of the Nation address fact-checked

Report: Wrapping up the [7th] State of the Nation

Report: Claim that 94% in SA have access to safe drinking water…doesn’t hold water

Factsheet: The housing situation in South Africa

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