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Does the DA create 'change that moves SA forward'? We weigh up key claims

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The Democratic Alliance (DA), South Africa’s official opposition party, rules 26 municipalities in South Africa. They are aiming to add municipalities like Nelson Mandela Bay, Tshwane and Tlokwe to the list in the upcoming local government election.

Their 68-page manifesto is titled “Change that moves South Africa forward again”. In the first pages, DA leader Mmusi Maimane spells out the DA’s vision for local government saying that “this document does not only make promises of a better future, it illustrates the progress we have already made in the municipalities we currently govern”.  

Here we evaluate are key claims in the DA’s manifesto about their past performance in local government. (Note: We aren’t able to fact-check promises but will keep an eye on whether they are fulfilled.)

We have also fact-checked the manifestos of the African National Congress and the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF):  




“More than 8.2 million South Africans do not have a job.”



When the DA launched their manifesto on 23 April 2016, the latest available data on unemployment in South Africa was from July to September 2015.

That data showed that 5,418,000 people were unemployed then, according to the narrow definition. These people are unemployed but tried to find a job in the last four weeks. The latest data, from January to March 2016, shows that the number has risen to 5,714,000.

The expanded definition of unemployment includes discouraged job-seekers. These are people who want to work but are not actively trying to find employment. According to the expanded definition, there were 8,304,000 unemployed people in South Africa in July to September 2015. This figure rose to 8,927,000 in the first quarter of 2016.

READ: Unemployment statistics in South Africa explained


“Estimates by the City [of Cape Town] found that 161,000 individuals, or 11.3% of the total workforce in Cape Town, were employed by the informal economy in 2015.”



The estimates of the number of Capetonians working in the informal economy were included in a report on Economic Performance Indicators for Cape Town for the second quarter of 2015, the DA told Africa Check.

The informal employment sector, as measured by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), includes people informally employed, as well as people working in the formal sector or private households, but without a written contract or benefits such as medical aid or pension fund contributions.

The DA’s claim is correct for the second quarter of 2015, Stats SA’s quarterly labour force survey shows.

2015 Informal employees in City of Cape Town % of total employment Unemployment rate
Jan-Mar 135,000 9.5% 23.5%
April-June 161,000 11.3% 22.6%
July-Sept 171,000 11.6% 21.9%
Oct-Dec 175,000 11.6% 20.5%

Source: Stats SA quarterly labour force survey (Jan-March 2016)

But the size of Cape Town’s informal sector employment as a proportion of total employment is low relative to other metropolitan municipalities in South Africa, professor Dieter von Fintel of the Stellenbosch University’s economic department, told Africa Check.

Von Fintel said that only Tshwane’s proportion was lower than Cape Town’s. In turn, South Africa has a comparatively low informal sector share when compared to many developing countries.


“Midvaal [has] the lowest unemployment rate in Gauteng.”



The DA said their claim is based on 2011 census data, which showed that the Midvaal local municipality’s unemployment rate was then at 18.8%. Compared to the 3 metropolitan municipalities and 6 other local municipalities in the Gauteng province, Midvaal had the lowest unemployment figures in 2011.

Municipality Unemployment rate in 2011
Emfuleni 34.7%
Westonaria 29.5%
Ekurhuleni 28.8%
Merafong City 27.2%
Randfontein 27.1%
Lesedi 25%
City of Johannesburg 25%
Mogale City 24.6%
City of Tshwane 24.2%
Midvaal 18.8%

In 2001, the year after the DA first won Midvaal’s local government election, census data shows that the unemployment rate was 22.8%.


“Since 2011, the City of Cape Town has created more than 140,000 temporary work opportunities for unemployed South Africans through [the Expanded Public Works Programme].”



In support of the claim, DA spokesman Phumzile van Damme pointed Africa Check to a City of Cape Town media release from July 2015. It stated that “since 2011, the City of Cape Town has created more than 140,000 temporary work opportunities for unemployed residents through this programme”.

This is backed up by the City of Cape Town’s annual reports, in which they reported creating 140,324 work opportunities between 2011/12 and 2014/15.

(Note: As Africa Check has previously explained, the number of opportunities does not correspond to the number of people who have benefited from the programme. Someone can be employed on different projects in the programme at different times with each work period counted as a separate job opportunity.)

Financial year Work opportunities reported
2011/12 26,403
2012/13 35,556
2013/14 38,305
2014/15 40,060
Total 140,324

Source: City of Cape Town annual reports



The City of Cape Town’s "rate of unemployment" was 20.5% in 2013/14. This was lower than three other "major metros", including the City of Tshwane (23.4%), Nelson Mandela Bay (30.6%) and the City of Johannesburg (27.9%).



The DA’s research unit told Africa Check that “upon closer inspection we found that the heading for the unemployment figures that appear in the bar graph on page 13 of the manifesto is incorrect”.

The unemployment data they cited was actually for October to December in 2015. That year the City of Cape Town’s narrow unemployment rate was 20.5% as claimed. However, the metropolitan municipality with the lowest unemployment rate was eThekwini at 15.9%.

Municipality Official unemployment rate Expanded unemployment rate
City of Cape Town 20.5% 21.8%
Buffalo City 23.8% 27.3%
Nelson Mandela Bay 30.6% 30.6%
Mangaung 22.8% 29.2%
eThekwini 15.9% 24.3%
City of Joburg 27.9% 29.2%
City of Tshwane 23.4% 27.4%
Ekurhuleni 30.8% 33%

Source: Quarterly Labour Force Survey Quarter 4: 2015

Comparable unemployment data at metropolitan municipality level has only been released in Quarterly Labour Force Surveys since the beginning 2015. Prior to that, it was only available every ten years in the census.The DA referred to the incorrect information as a “formatting error” and said it was “deeply regretted”.

The latest data, from January to March of 2016, shows that the City of Cape Town’s unemployment rate had increased to 21.1%. The metropolitan municipality with the lowest unemployment rate was again eThekwini at 18.8%.

Pro-poor spending

Data provided by the City of Cape Town shows that the figure of 67% refers to what they call the "service delivery budget"


“In the 2014/15 financial year, the City of Cape Town spent 67% of its budget in poor communities.”



The “service delivery budget” includes the line departments City Health, Human Settlements, Safety and Security and Social and Early Childhood Development. It also includes parts of the budgets of other departments, such as Community Services, Transport and Utility Services.

A number of departments are not included in the city’s calculations. These include Compliance and Auxiliary Services, Corporate Services, Energy, Environment and Spatial Planning, Finance, Rates and Other and Tourism Events and Economic Development.

If the city’s figure of investment in poor areas and informal settlements (R17,504,774,569) is calculated as a percentage of the total latest publicly available 2014/15 budget (R35,458,835,000), the portion the city says it invested drops to 49.4%.

Read our report for a detailed explanation.




“DA-run governments are recognised as among the best in South Africa by national government and a variety of other agencies.”



The DA told Africa Check that they base this claim on three different evaluations:

  1. the auditor-general’s reports from 2008/9 to 2013/4, as evaluated by the Dullah Omar Institute, a community law centre based at the University of Western Cape, with a research focus on multi-level government among others.

  2. the Government Performance Index, a metric compiled by the research and advocacy organisation Good Governance Africa,

  3. the Municipal Financial Stability Index (MFSI), compiled by the Ratings Afrika agency.


Auditor-general’s reports

The Dullah Omar Institute publishes an annual Municipal Audit Consistency Barometer in which they categorise a municipality according to the audit outcome it most often achieved over the past 5 years, in this case over the period 2008/9 to 2013/4. There are five possible audit outcomes, listed here from best to worst:

  • Unqualified with no findings (clean),

  • Unqualified with findings,

  • Qualified with findings,

  • Adverse with findings, and

  • Disclaimer with findings.


According to the DA, it governs in 26 municipalities across four provinces: Gauteng and the Northern, Eastern and Western Cape. The Dullah Omar Institute’s report shows the DA mostly scored clean (unqualified with no findings) and unqualified opinions with findings between 2008/9 and 2013/4:

  • Clean: 6 municipalities (City of Cape Town, George, Langeberg, Mossel Bay, Swartland and West Coast district)

  • Unqualified with findings: 16 municipalities (Bergrivier, Bitou, Breede Valley, Cape Winelands district, Drakenstein, Eden district, Hessequa, Knysna, Laingsburg, Midvaal, Overberg district, Overstrand, Saldanha Bay, Stellenbosch, Theewaterskloof and Witzenberg)

  • Qualified with findings: 1 municipality (Hantam)

  • Disclaimer: 1 municipality (Baviaans)

  • Not submitted: 2 municipalities (Swellendam and Karoo Hoogland).


The auditor-general’s report for 2014/15 on the outcome of municipal audits, released yesterday, showed that 21 DA-run municipalities achieved a clean audit, 3 an unqualified with findings opinion and 2 a qualified with findings opinion.

But the auditor-general’s reports speak to financial governance and not necessarily all aspects of service delivery, Karen Heese, an economist at research organisation Municipal IQ told Africa Check.

Independent consultant to national and local governments Dr Andrew Siddle explained to Africa Check that the auditor-general’s reports show “three things only: the soundness of financial reporting, [a municipality’s] legislative compliance, and the soundness of its reporting on performance management”.

When a municipality gets a “clean” report, it means that it has passed the test for all three of these elements - “nothing more, nothing less”.

Nonetheless, “if a municipality passes the ‘clean’ test, then it may logically claim to be doing some things right, and that can be justifiably be interpreted as a reflection on its approach to governance”, Siddle added. As such, auditor-general reports “should be and are taken seriously”.

Government Performance Index

As for the Government Performance Index, the DA told Africa Check that it shows that “12 out of the 20 best run municipalities in the country are governed by the DA, with 9 of them in the top 10. Good Governance Africa ranked the country’s 234 local and metropolitan municipalities according to 15 different criteria across three spheres of performance: administration, economic development and service delivery.”

Africa Check verified the DA’s standing in the index. However, Heese cautioned against relying too much on the Government Performance Index as its measure of a municipality’s performance is based on limited information.

Ratings Africa

Africa Check was unable to verify the DA’s claims about the Municipal Financial Stability Index produced by Ratings Afrika. Analyst Charl Kocks said the data broken down by municipality was “proprietary” and we need to buy the report at a cost of R100,000 to access that.

However, Kocks did confirm that the average score for the Western Cape was 60 out of 100 and that it was the highest scoring province in the country, as the DA claimed. However, he could not tell us how many of the 22 DA-run municipalities in the Western Cape were included in the index.

Kocks explained that their ratings were based on municipalities complying with their requests for various categories of information. Whether or not all of the 30 municipalities in the Western Cape complied is unknown.


“The City of Cape Town has repealed over 300 [apartheid-era policies, structure plans, bylaws and other procedures].”



The DA manifesto promises that the party will create “a regulatory business environment that promotes growth and innovation”.

One of the ways it says it will do so is by repealing “apartheid-era policies, structure plans, bylaws and other procedures which contradict our commitment to freedom and fairness and which pose barriers to economic development and job-creating growth”. In the City of Cape Town, the DA claimed it had already repealed “over 300 such policies”.

The first document the DA sent us contained only 261 such policies. The list included policies from post-1994 - such as the “Goodwood Policy on the erection of Wendy houses” (1997) and “Fencing guidelines for N1 City, Goodwood” (2001).

In response, the DA said: “We do not believe the text suggests that the structure plans, bylaws and other procedures are all apartheid-era; indeed, a cursory look at the list should show that the policies, structure plans, bylaws and other procedures from the democratic era have also been repealed.”

The party then forwarded us a document listing an additional 75 policies, structure plans and frameworks as proof.




“The City of Cape Town runs six facilities dedicated to providing treatment for alcohol and drug addiction.”



The DA claims in its manifesto that the City of Cape Town runs treatment centres “in accordance with the Matrix Model of treatment” in Delft South, Khayelitsha, Manenberg, Milnerton, Parkwood and Tafelsig. A leaflet provided to Africa Check explains that the Matrix Model is an intensive outpatient treatment programme developed in the US.

Africa Check called the centres on the list and confirmed that they offer Matrix Model treatment. However, the international Matrix Institute on Addictions lists only two of the centres as officially accredited on its website.




“The DA is making great strides compared to other metros in the country - as of February 2015, Nelson Mandela Bay had 50,000 outstanding title deeds”



The DA pointed us to a February 2015 parliamentary reply by the ministry of human settlements as proof.

It showed that the Nelson Mandela Bay metro had by far the most title deeds yet to issue, followed by the City of Cape Town.

Metro Outstanding title deeds on 20 February 2015
Buffalo City 5,835
Nelson Mandela Bay 50,934
Mangaung 5,190
Ekurhuleni Did not submit information
City of Johannesburg None outstanding
City of Tshwane 8,237
eThekwini 3,628
City of Cape Town 11,059

The figure has since changed.

Nelson Mandela Bay’s municipal manager, Mthubanzi Mniki told Africa Check only 15,339 title deeds were outstanding as of 30 April 2016. Of these, 1,473 were for pre-1994 housing stock and 13,866 for post-1994 stock.

The information is not yet publicly available, though.

Water loss



“...the Drakenstein municipality managed to reduce annual water losses from 34.8% to 12.1% in little over a decade. The campaign also showcases how DA local governments can reverse the decline of a municipality by identifying problems and taking proactive steps to address them.”



The Drakenstein municipality is located in the Western Cape and comprises the towns of Paarl and Wellington.

Van Damme told Africa Check that the figures cited were supplied by the municipality. She provided a booklet which stated that “water losses in the Drakenstein municipality were an unacceptable 34% in 1999... Through a coordinated programme of action, the municipality reduced the water losses to 12.1% by 2013.”

The municipality was however only formed in December 2000 when the Paarl and Wellington municipalities were amalgamated.

Drakenstein municipality spokesman, Mart-Marié Haasbroek, told Africa Check that the figures shared by the DA were from the town of Paarl, located in the Drakenstein municipality. They could not be attributed to the municipality as a whole.

“Before 2012, the statistics for the other towns in Drakenstein were estimated and are therefore less reliable and reflects more erratically. Data for Paarl has always been accurately measured,” said Haasbroek.


Help us fact check!

Claim: “The DA-run City of Cape Town has rolled out more than 200 public Wi-Fi zones, used by tens of thousands of residents on a weekly basis.”


DA spokesman Phumzile van Damme told Africa Check: “The City of Cape Town currently has 201 public Wi-Fi access points at 78 sites."


She sent us a spreadsheet of the locations. We have uploaded a number of the locations to this Google map. You can help us fact-check this claim by connecting to the Wi-Fi network to see if it works.


Send us a screenshot of your connection and email it to [email protected] or tweet us at @AfricaCheck.


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