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Did Zuma get his #SoNA2016 facts straight?

This article is more than 8 years old

South African President Jacob Zuma delivered his ninth State of the Nation address on 11 February. We are in the process of fact-checking a number of claims he made. Check back for updates.



“We are proud of our Top 10 ranking in the World Economic Forum competitiveness report with respect to financial services.”



South Africa was ranked 6th out of 144 countries for the “availability of financial services” in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015/16 Global Competitiveness Report.

However, the ranking is not based on objective data or research. Rather, it is the result of an opinion survey of unnamed South African business leaders.

As part of their “Executive Opinion Survey” the WEF asked 58 respondents in 2014 and 50 respondents in 2015 the question: “To what extent does the financial sector [in South Africa] provide a wide range of financial products and services to businesses?”

The business people had to answer on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 represented “not at all” and 7 “provides a wide variety”. Their combined answers produced a score of 6.1, which put South Africa in 6th place, behind Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, United States and Canada.

A further flaw is that the WEF uses a national score to create an international ranking. Respondents may rank their countries differently if they were asked to compare South Africa’s availability of financial services to other countries.

Read: Is SA bottom of the class in maths and science? WEF ranking is meaningless



“There has been no load-shedding since August last year.”



South Africa’s electricity supplier Eskom tweeted on 20 January that there had been no load-shedding in 165 days - since 9 August 2015 - “except 2hrs 20mins” on 14 September last year.

Electricity pylons outside the town of Beaufort West in April 2008. Photo: Chris Kirchhoff/
Electricity pylons outside the town of Beaufort West in April 2008. Photo: Chris Kirchhoff/" />

However, they amended their numbers in a media statement on 29 January, saying the utility had been able “to avoid load shedding for the past 136 days”, since 14 September.

Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe confirmed to Africa Check that they had not implemented any load-shedding since 14 September 2015. He said the power cuts that people have experienced in different areas since then were not due to load-shedding.

“Municipalities have their own distribution points and faults can occur at this level. But on the national grid on Eskom level, we have not had any problems,” Phasiwe said. - Lebohang Mojapelo

Renewable energy


“The multiple bid windows of the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme have attracted an investment of R194 billion.”



Following the rolling black-outs South Africa experienced in 2008 government invited independent power producers to sell electricity to the country’s power supplier, Eskom.

According to a September 2015 report by the department of energy, government has so far procured 6,327 MW from independent power producers. At the end of June 2015, 1,860 MW had come online.

The investments pledged totalled R192.6 billion. - Anim van Wyk



"To curb water wastage, the Department of Water and Sanitation has begun its programme of training 15,000 young people as artisans."



The department of water and sanitation launched their “War on Leaks” project in August 2015.

Phase 1, to be completed in the 2015/16 financial year, will train 3,000 artisans, plumbers and water agents. (A water agent educates the public on how to use water wisely and manage water resources.)

An additional 5,000 people will begin training in the 2016/17 financial year (phase 2) and 7,000 will begin training in 2017/18 (phase 3).

Spokesman for the department, Mlimandlela Ndamase, told Africa Check that 2,897 people were receiving training as of 25 January this year. This included 1,573 artisans, 243 plumbers and 1,081 water agents.

However, the artisans and plumbers need 3 years of training before they will be able to start working while the water agents can begin work after 10 months of training. - Kate Wilkinson

Life expectancy


“ expectancy of South Africans for both males and females has significantly improved and is currently 62 years across genders, which is an increase of eight and a half years since 2005.”



Life expectancy for both men and women was estimated at 62.5 years in 2015 according to Statistics South Africa’s mid-year population estimates.

This is an increase of nine years since 2005 when life expectancy was 53.5 years. - Kate Wilkinson



“The HIV policy turnaround in 2009 led to… treatment for 3.2 million people living with the virus.”



Data for 2015/16 is not publically available yet. But the department of health’s 2014/15 annual report shows that Zuma’s claim is in the right ball park.

A young woman gets antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at a hospital in Soweto in 2012. More than six million people in South Africa live with HIV/AIDS. Photo AFP/Alexander Joe
A young woman gets antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at a hospital in Soweto in 2012. Photo AFP/Alexander Joe

According to the department, 3,103,902 people were receiving therapy at the end of March last year. That would be nearly half of the 6.2 million people in the country that Statistics South Africa estimated were living with HIV in 2015.

While experts believe the department’s figures are mostly accurate, problems can creep in because there isn’t a single data system that monitors all patients on treatment and, importantly, removes patients who stop taking their medication or die.

The department’s target for 2015/16 was 3.8 million people on treatment. We will update this report when new figures are released. - Kate Wilkinson

READ: Yes, South Africa has the world’s largest antiretroviral therapy programme



Girls are “beating the boys hands down” in matric.



President Jacob Zuma made this claim in his reply to the State of the Nation debate, but data from the department of basic education does not back it up.

While more female candidates (243,108) passed matric than male candidates (212,717) in 2015, the pass rate for female pupils was lower.

Of the full-time female pupils who wrote the exam, 69.3% passed compared to 72.4% of male pupils. The department noted in its 2015 technical report that male pupils performed better than female pupils in all provinces between 2012 and 2015.

Nationally male pupils have outperformed female pupils for the last 7 years.

Male pupils also performed better in mathematics and physical science. In 2015, 61.1% of male students passed physical science in comparison to 56.4% of female pupils. With regards to mathematics, 54.9% of male pupils passed compared to 44.2% of female pupils. - Kate Wilkinson

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