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Has the ANC moved South Africa forward? We examine key claims

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The African National Congress has been in power in South Africa for twenty years. Despite criticism of corruption, crime, poverty and inequality, its leaders are adamant that it has a “good story to tell” voters.

In his introduction to the party’s 2014 manifesto, President Jacob Zuma wrote: “The lives of our people have vastly improved and South Africa is a much better place than it was before 1994…Our struggle has now reached the second phase, in which we will implement radical socio-economic transformation to meaningfully address poverty, unemployment and inequality.”

In this - the second of two reports - we examine some of the key claims that the ANC has made in its election campaign. (Read the first one here.)



“In 2009 the number of contact crimes was 1,407 per 100,000 people. In 2012 the number of contact crimes was 1,233 per 100,000 people.”



Contact crimes are the crimes we fear most and include murder, attempted murder, assault with intent to commit grievous bodily harm, common assault, sexual crimes, common robbery and robbery with aggravating circumstances.

Crime ratio claimWhile the overall ratio of contact crimes (usually represented as a ratio per 100,000 people) has indeed decreased since the cited 2008/2009 period, the ANC’s claims are incorrect as they contain a “serious statistical error”.

The Institute for Security Studies (ISS), an independent research organisation, explains that instead of using population estimates based on the most recent national census, which was published in 2011, police calculations (on which the ANC claims appear to be based) instead used outdated population figures from the earlier 2001 census.

Using the correct population data the number of contact crimes stood at 1,381 per 100,000 people in 2009, and 1,209 per 100,000 people in 2012, lower than the ANC’s figures.

The ANC’s claim also excludes the most recent official contact crime statistics. During 2012/2013 incidents of murder, attempted murder and robbery with aggravating circumstances increased for the first time in years. These categories account for only 33% of all crimes categorised as “contact crimes”. Consequently, the overall contact crime ratio in 2012/13 still showed a decline – to 1,181 per 100,000 people.

“The government appears not to be taking these worrying trends seriously as we have seen no indication from the South African Police Service (SAPS) about what they will be doing to address these increases [in murder, attempted murder and aggravated robbery],” said Gareth Newham, head of the Governance, Crime and Justice Division at the ISS. “Instead, we had the SAPS National Commissioner releasing inaccurate and misleading crime ratios for the first time in 20 years.

“Despite being made aware of this, no action has been taken to correct these statistics. This raises serious concerns about the integrity of the SAPS senior leadership and has contributed further to the undermining of public trust in this important institution.”

For an explanation of the importance of crime ratios and using the correct population data to calculate them, see Africa Check's guide to understanding crime statistics and read this report.



"In 1994, 39% of South Africans had access to electricity, today, 86% of South Africans have access to electricity."



According to the ANC’s official Twitter account the party’s secretary-general, Gwede Mantashe, made the claim during a rally in South Africa’s Northern Cape province yesterday.

Access to electricity is usually assessed in terms of households. Therefore, it is strange that Mantashe referred to “South Africans” and did not use the standard measure of “households”.

It is not the first time Mantashe has made such a claim. In an interview with The Africa Report in February this year he was quoted as saying: “…[I]n 1992 only 39% of South Africans had access to electricity. In 2013, it is 84% who have access to electricity.”

A 2003 study conducted by the University of Cape Town’s Energy and Development Research Centre included data which showed that 39% of South African households had access to electricity in 1992, not 1994 as Mantashe reportedly claimed yesterday.

The Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation’s Development Indicators show that 50.9% of households had access to electricity by 1994/95.

Mantashe’s claim yesterday that 39% of South Africans had access to electricity in 1994 is incorrect, according to the available data.

If Mantashe had referred to “households”, the second part of his claim would have been in the right ballpark. According to the 2012 General Household Survey, 85.3% of South African households had access to electricity.



“In 1994, there were 150,000 African students in university, a 57% matric pass rate and no grade R. In 2012, there were 750,000 African students in university, a 78% [matric] pass rate and grade R.”



There are no consistent figures for the number of black students in universities in 1994. This is due, in part, to the different structures and classifications of tertiary institutions before 1994.

The estimated total number of black students in tertiary institutions in 1994 ranges from the figure of 150,000 cited by the ANC up to 191,000 and even as high as 273,526.

The cover of the ANC's 2014 election manifestoThe ANC is correct to claim that there was a school pass rate of 58% in 1994. In 1994, 287,343 pupils passed matric, out of a total of 495,408.

The claim that Grade R did not exist in 1994 is also correct. Grade R was officially phased in as the first year of formal schooling from 2001.

The Department of Basic Education aims to provide universal access to Grade R in 2014, although this was originally planned for 2010.

The claim that there were 750,000 African students enrolled in universities in 2012 is incorrect, according to the Department of Higher Education and Training. Its annual report for 2012/2013 states that 640,443 African pupils were enrolled in universities that year.

The claim that the matric pass rate in 2012 was 78% is also incorrect. That was actually the pass rate in 2013.

In 2012, the pass rate was 73.9%. But,as we explained in an earlier report, matric pass rates are not a reliable benchmark of education quality.

No-fee schools


“Over seven million learners are in no-fee schools, up from five million in 2009.”



ANC spokesman Jackson Mthembu said the figures originated from the Department of Basic Education’s 2013 Annual School Survey. The document is not available online and the ANC did not respond to emails requesting a copy of it. The basic education department failed to respond to questions about the number of children in no-fee schools.

However, the department’s latest annual report appears to contradict the claim, stating that there are currently “over nine million children in non-fee paying schools”, two million more than the ANC has claimed. The 2009/10 annual report indicates that approximately 8-million children were  attending no-fee schools in 2010.

School meals


“Over nine million learners in 20,000 schools receive daily meals.”



The Department of Basic Education has reported that in 2012/13 the National School Nutrition Programme reached 9,159,773 pupils in 21,400 schools. This figure was also reported in the department’s 2014 – 2015 annual performance plan.

But the programme has been dogged by controversy and there have been reported cases where thousands of pupils have not received daily meals. Investigations by Corruption Watch found that the programme was “prone to corruption and manipulation”.

In 2013, a teacher union took the Kwazulu-Natal education department to court amid claims of irregularities in the issuing of tenders for the school nutrition scheme. The union claimed that thousands of pupils were going hungry because companies that had been awarded tenders to provide the meals had failed to do so.

The public interest litigation centre, Section27, was also involved in legal action to compel the delivery of food to schools.

Reporting on problems at 11 schools in Limpopo province in 2013, the Mail & Guardian newspaper noted: “School feeding schemes have proven notoriously vulnerable to corruption because middlemen are contracted to provide the meals, and sometimes their relationship with their employers appears to be worth more than their competence.”

Higher education


"Twice as many young people attended university and twice as many graduated in 2012 than in 1994."



In 1994, there was a total of 347,566 students enrolled at various universities, according to the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET). An estimated 685,729 students were enrolled in 2012, the 2012 Household Survey found. The DHET put the figure at 938,201 in 2011. The South Africa Institute for Race Relations (SAIRR) 2012 Survey findings also support the claim.

As far as the numbers go, the claim that the number of students enrolled at tertiary institutions has doubled would appear to be correct.

However, if population growth is taken into account, the trend is negative. The most recent census, published in 2011, found that higher percentages of people aged 18 to 24 were in education in 1996 than in 2011.

The number of students graduating from universities has also doubled, as claimed, from 74,000 to about 160,000. However, despite the increase, only a small proportion of students who enrol in tertiary institutions ultimately succeed in their studies. The graduation rate for undergraduate students is 15%, 20% for masters students and 12% for doctoral students.

Further Education and Training colleges


"Further Education and Training college enrolments doubled from 345,566 in 2010 to 657,690 in 2012."



The claim is correct, according to the DHET’s 2012/13 annual report which shows that enrolment figures have increased from 345,566 in 2010 to 657,690 in 2012.

Same-sex marriage


“South Africa was the first African country to legalise same-sex marriages back in 2006. It was the fifth country in the world to take this bold step.”



The claim is correct. In 2005, South Africa’s Constitutional Court – the highest in the country - ruled that the common law definition of marriage was inconsistent with the Constitution. South Africa’s Parliament was given a year to remedy the situation.

Sam sex marriages claimThe Civil Union Act was passed in 2006 and allowed for two people, irrespective of their sex, to enter into a marriage or civil partnership.

South Africa was the fifth country in the world to legalise same-sex marriages, following the Netherlands in 2000, Belgium in 2003 and Spain and Canada in 2005.

Edited by Julian Rademeyer


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Does the ANC have a “good story to tell”? We examine key election claims

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Zuma’s land reform figures: Officials don’t seem to know the real numbers

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ANC billboard’s sanitation claim is false

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