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President Zuma’s track record: 7 claims about #progress fact-checked

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The South African presidency took stock of government’s progress in celebration of President Jacob Zuma 75th birthday on 12 April.

A series of tweets - under the hashtag #progress - covered a wide range of government activities: from fighting corruption to defence and “celebrating our heroes”. A lengthy media statement elaborated on it.

We put the tweets’ claims to the vote and our readers selected the 7 contained in this report.

The president’s spokesman, Dr Bongani Ngqulunga, said he would respond to our email requesting sources for the claims, but he hasn’t yet. (Note: We will update our report, and adjust the findings if necessary when he replies.)



7 million households now connected to the electricity grid



The last official count showed that 6,804,788 additional households had been connected to the grid since 1994. This was on 31 March 2016, with the total for 2016/17 yet to be released by the department of energy.

However, the spokesman for South Africa’s electricity utility tweeted this week that “Eskom alone has electrified 207,436 households in SA in the financial year ended 31 March 2017”. This takes the total to just over 7 million, with new connections by municipalities in the past financial year yet to be added.

(Note: After we published this report, the department's Maropeng Ramokgobathi replied, saying that 7,047,589 households had been connected by the end of January 2017.)


R4.3 billion invested in new car manufacturing plant in Eastern Cape



This tweet relates to a mega-deal signed last year in August with the Beijing Automobile International Corporation (BAIC) to build 3 of their car models locally.

An information sheet put the first phase at R4.5 billion, with a second phase of R6.5 billion to be rolled out in a couple of years’ time.

Construction of the first phase of this new car manufacturing plant just outside Port Elizabeth was supposed to have started in December 2016. However, Africa Check has so far been unable to confirm this and to double-check the value of the first phase with the department of trade and industry’s Sidwell Medupe. - Laura Kapelari


3.5 million people get HIV treatment



When we checked before, people in the know told us that South Africa’s antiretroviral therapy programme is undoubtedly the world’s largest.

And it is even larger than what the presidency says it is. At the end of February 2017, 3.69 million people were on antiretroviral therapy supplied by the government, the national health department’s Joe Maila told us.

When the World Health Organisation last provided a comparison, based on 2015 data, South Africa had 3.5 times as many patients as India, the next in line.

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


9,312,511 learners and 20,744 schools have benefitted from the nutrition programme



The tweet contradicts the presidency’s statement on the same day, which said that in the 2015/16 financial year “the National School Nutrition Programme reached a total of 9,630,590 learners in 21,177” schools.

The department of basic education’s 2015/16 annual report, supports the figures cited in the statement. The tweeted claim is therefore an understatement.

The nutrition programme is funded through a treasury grant. In 2015/16, R5.7 billion was allocated to South Africa’s provinces. The programme provides meals to pupils in the country’s poorest 60% schools.

The department does not monitor the feeding scheme in all schools, however. In 2015/16, it monitored the programme in just 299 schools across South Africa. - Kate Wilkinson


8 million hectares of arable land transferred



Of South Africa’s total land area of 122.3 million ha, just over 100 million ha were used for agricultural purposes the last time it was calculated - back in 1991.

The rest of the land was used for:

  • nature conservation efforts (11,785,999 ha, or 10%),

  • forestry (1,433,964 ha, or 1%),

  • uses other than agriculture, nature conservation and forestry, such as mining and towns (7%).


South Africa’s arable land consists of 16.7 million ha (14% of total land use). The rest of the agricultural land (83.9 million ha, or 68% of total land use) is better suited for animal grazing.

(Note: The department of agriculture, forestry and fisheries previously told Africa Check that the 1991 land utilisation dataset would be updated by the end of 2016, but departmental spokesman Makenosi Maroo said it is yet to be released.)

3 different land reform programmes

In South Africa, land reform is made up of three programmes: restitution, redistribution and land tenure reform.

The restitution programme looks to remedy the loss of land as a result of forced removals after 1913. The redistribution programme aims to provide land for residential and productive purposes to “the urban and rural very poor, labour tenants, farm workers as well as new entrants to agriculture”. The land tenure reform programme looks to provide security of tenure in a variety of forms including communal tenure.

A database provided by spokesman for the department of rural development and land reform, Linda Page, indicates that between 1994 and 2016, over 3 million ha have been transferred through restitution and 4.1 million via redistribution. Through tenure reform just over 630,000 ha had been transferred, adding up to 8,149,966 ha.

While the available figures back up the presidency’s tweet, the transferred land does not solely consist of arable land.

Ruth Hall, a professor at the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, told Africa Check that “the province with the highest level of land reform is the Northern Cape - [which consists] almost entirely [of] non-arable land for grazing”.

For this reason, we rate the claim mostly correct. - Gopolang Makou

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


2.1 million more people employed since 2010



It’s true that 2.1 million more people are currently working than in 2010 - but the population also grew by about 5 million during this time.

For this reason, it is more useful to compare unemployment rates. (Pro tip: Use rates when comparing crime statistics, too.)

So, in the first three months of 2010, South Africa had 18.4 million people that could work. Of those, 13.8 million had a job and 4.6 million people were unemployed. This gives an employment rate of 25.1%.

By the last quarter of 2016, 21.8 million people fell into the “available to work” category. Just over 16 million could tick “employed” on a form, while 5.8 million people were sitting at home or on a street corner, fruitlessly waiting for a piece job. Punching these numbers into a calculator shows that the unemployment rate had gone up to 26.5%.

But there’s more. Some economists argue that we should include people who have given up on finding a job in the unemployment rate. (Note: This is called the expanded unemployment rate, for reasons you’ll find in our handy guide to understanding employment statistics.)

This too showed an increase - from 34.9% to 35.6%, meaning 8.9 million people in South Africa were out of work at the end of 2016, including those who had given up on finding a job.

  Economically active population Employed people Narrow unemployment rate Broad unemployment rate
Jan-Mar 2010 18 409 670 13 797 253 25.1% 34.9%
Oct-Dec 2016 21 849 408 16 068 612 26.5% 35.6%


4 million houses built by government since 1994



If you’ve been following Africa Check for a while, you’ll know the drill by now: a housing opportunity is not a house. The presidency seems to keep including housing subsidies and serviced stands - a piece of land supplied with water, electricity and sanitation - in its count of houses government built.

Between 1994/95 and 2015/16, government built 3,030,824 houses, but delivered 4,060,795 “housing opportunities” in total. (Note: These figures have not been independently verified so experts say they should be viewed as “indicative rather than entirely conclusive.)

READ: Minister Sisulu is right – SA’s housing delivery has almost halved since 2006/07


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