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ANC at 107: Eight birthday claims by party leader Ramaphosa fact-checked

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With the stakes high in an election year, South Africa’s ruling party sought to play up its achievements in the 25 years it has been in power.

Party president Cyril Ramaphosa delivered the party’s traditional “January 8th statement” which this year marks the organisation's 107th birthday.

This fact-check interrogates eight claims Ramaphosa made in his speech.



“Despite economic challenges over the last few years, our economy has tripled in size over the last 25 years. ”



The size of a country’s economy is measured by its gross domestic product (GDP). This is the value of all goods and services produced in a given period, usually a year.

The claim appears to be based on World Bank rates for South Africa’s current or “nominal” GDP, which takes into account inflation over the years.

The data shows that the country’s nominal GDP grew 2.5 times from US$139.7 billion in 1994 to $349.4 billion in 2017. (Note: GDP figures from 2018 are not yet available.)

‘Completely distorted figures’

But it’s important to separate real economic growth from inflation, Prof Jannie Rossouw, head of the school of economic and business sciences at Wits University, told Africa Check.

Rossouw said using nominal prices for GDP gives you “completely distorted figures”.

World Bank data based on constant or real GDP (where the effect of inflation is removed) shows that the country’s economy grew 1.9 times from $225.6 billion in 1994 to $426.7 billion in 2017.

“So in constant terms it did grow a little, but definitely not triple,” said Rossouw.  “And it is also not true on a per capita basis, which is even more important.”

GDP per capita, or “per person”,  divides a country’s total gross domestic product by the number of people living there. South Africa’s GDP per capita at constant (2010) prices increased 1.2 times between 1994 and 2017, from R42,849 to R52,060. – Cayley Clifford


“ Seven million more people are now employed today, than were employed in 1994.”



In 1994 an estimated 8,896,000 people had jobs in South Africa, according to a report by Statistics South Africa.

The latest available labour data shows the country had 16,380,000 employed people in July to September 2018.

This is an increase of 7,484,000, in line with Ramaphosa’s claim. But Stats SA has cautioned against directly comparing the two surveys as they were prepared differently.

Number of employed vs share of employed

It can be misleading to only compare the number of employed people, Kezia Lilenstein, a research analyst with the University of Cape Town’s Development Policy Research Unit, previously told Africa Check.

“As the population increases, it is also the case that there are now more unemployed people,” she said. “It is more meaningful to look at the proportion of people who are employed in the two time periods.”

Statistics South Africa also suggests using ratios for comparisons and not absolute numbers.

Using this approach, both the narrow and the broad unemployment rates increased over the period. - Lloyd Hazvineyi

  1994 July - September 2018
Narrow unemployment rate 22% 27.5%
Broad unemployment rate 35% 37.3%

Source: Statistics South Africa

Service delivery


“In 1994 only three out of 10 people in South Africa had electricity…”



The claim that in 1994 only around 30% of people in South Africa had electricity in their homes is not new and has been debunked before.

There isn’t much data on national access to electricity before 1994. Statistics South Africa’s earliest data on electricity access is from the 1995 October Household Survey. It found that 63.5% of households used electricity for lighting that year.

Stats SA told Africa Check that the 1995 data isn’t used often as the survey was  “hamstrung by a series of methodological and practical issues”. The agency’s earliest solid data is from the 1996 Census, which found that 58.2% of households had electricity.

The Southern African Labour and Development Research Unit conducted a national survey of living conditions in South Africa in 1993 and 1994. It estimated that 53.6% of households had access to electricity in those years.

The sample was fairly small, at fewer than 9,000 households. But Professor Ingrid Woolard, a University of Cape Town economics professor whose research interests include survey methodology, previously told Africa Check that while there would be “some margin of error” the survey was “fairly reliable”. - Naphtali Khumalo


“ eight out of 10 South Africans have electricity in their home.”



Statistics South Africa’s 2017 general household survey shows that most people (73.3%) reported having pre-paid electricity in their homes. A further 12.7% had conventionally metered electricity.

This means 86% of South Africans had electricity in their homes in 2017. - Naphtali Khumalo


“Nine out of 10 South Africans today… have clean running water.”



Statistics South Africa’s 2017 general household survey estimated that 88.6% of households had piped or tap water.

Isabel Schmidt, chief director of service delivery statistics at the agency, told Africa Check she thought the 88.6% was probably rounded up to 9 out of 10. She said piped water “theoretically should be clean”.

Rating piped water standards

But there were problems with the reliability of piped water, Dr Kirsty Carden, a research officer in the urban water management research unit of the University of Cape Town's civil engineering department, told Africa Check.

“I think particularly if you start looking at consistency and the fact that clean running water is available at all times, I don't think that [90%] would be correct.”

In 2017 just over a fifth (22%) of households said their water supply didn’t work properly. Some 63.9% of households said their water service was “good”, 25.3% said it was “average” and 10.8% said it was “poor”.

When Stats SA asked households for their opinions on water quality, 7.3% said their water wasn’t safe to drink. The share was highest (14.3%) in Mpumalanga. - Naphtali Khumalo



“Every day we feed 9 million children.”



The department of basic education’s National School Nutrition Programme is meant to provide one meal a day to all pupils in poorer primary and secondary schools.

According to the department’s 2017/18 annual report, the programme reached 9,247,359 pupils in 21,277 schools in 2017.

In 2017 department officials visited 209 schools in all nine of the country’s provinces to check on the programme. Of these schools, 195 (93%) were “feeding on the day of the visit”. Schools that weren’t feeding said the food was late or hadn’t been delivered.

Statistics South Africa's 2017 general household survey shows the feeding scheme reached 11,149,171 pupils in 2017. Of those, 8,830,511 pupils said they got food every day and 592,217 said they were fed a few times a week. A million pupils said that they did not get food even though they were part of the scheme.

Pupils depend on food

In 2017, it was reported that some KwaZulu-Natal feeding scheme suppliers,  meant to provide meals to thousands of the province’s pupils, did not exist. Yet the companies had contracts with the KwaZulu-Natal department of education.

“The implementation of the [programme] in KwaZulu-Natal has been beset with problems for years, including reports of tender irregularities, poor administrative capacity and non-delivery,” Hopolang Selebalo, co-head of research at advocacy group Equal Education, told Africa Check.

“Although, on the surface, the roll-out of the National School Nutrition Programme seems almost faultless, it is imperative that the department of basic education and parliament monitor its actual implementation in schools, across provinces,” she said.  - Cayley Clifford



“More than 4.3 million South Africans who are living with HIV receive antiretroviral treatment, making it the biggest programme in the whole world.”



From April to June 2018, 4,224,982 people were on antiretroviral treatment in South Africa, according to a department of health presentation to parliament.

The World Health Organization estimates that in 2017, the country had 4,359,000 people receiving the therapy. South Africa also had the largest number of people living with HIV: an estimated 7.2 million.

Is it the largest programme in the world?

“That’s accurate. South Africa does indeed have the largest antiretroviral treatment programme in the world,” Dr Amir Shroufi, medical coordinator at Doctors Without Borders in South Africa, told Africa Check.

The WHO’s latest comparable data on the size of antiretroviral treatment programmes is from 2017. That year, South Africa had the world’s largest programme, ahead of India and Mozambique. - Lloyd Hazvineyi

World’s largest antiretroviral treatment programmes (2017)
Country Number of people on treatment Number of people living with HIV
South Africa 4,359,000 7,200,000
India 1,201,000 2,100,000
Mozambique 1,156,000 2,100,000
Kenya 1,122,000 1,500,000
Zimbabwe 1,120,000 1,300,000

Source: World Health Organisation (2017)



“ More South Africans are living longer with average life expectancy increasing to 64 years in 2018 from a low of 53 years in 2005.”



Life expectancy increased from 54 years in 2005 to 64.2 years in 2018, data from Statistics South Africa shows.

The life expectancy of females (67.3 years) is higher than that of males (61.1 years), according to Stats SA’s 2018 mid-year population estimates.

Other organisations also calculate life expectancy. The figures all differ slightly because they are estimates, Dr Leigh Johnson of the University of Cape Town’s school of public health and family medicine previously told Africa Check.

For example, the World Bank estimated that South Africa’s life expectancy increased from 52.6 years in 2005 to 62.8 years in 2016 (the latest year available).

“The important point is that most of the agencies’ estimates show that life expectancy has been increasing steadily,” said Johnson.

Why has life expectancy increased?

Antiretroviral treatment for HIV was the single most important reason for the increase in life expectancy, David Sanders, professor of public health at the University of Western Cape, told Africa Check. “That is by far the greatest contributor.”

Sanders said life expectancy had also been increased by better nutrition, improved toilet and sewage systems, and an improved water supply. - Lloyd Hazvineyi

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