South Africans have been urged to register to vote ahead of the country’s national and provincial elections.
Africa Check will be fact-checking claims made in the leading parties’ election manifestos. But what about the election promises that were made five years ago? Our promise tracker has checked on commitments made in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
In this report we look at three promises made in the African National Congress’s previous manifesto, released on 11 January 2014. We will be tracking more of the ANC’s promises in the run-up to the election.
Because government reporting keeps to financial years, we tracked progress made in the fulfilment of promises in the manifesto from the start of the 2014/15 financial year (1 April 2014). The five-year period ends on 31 March 2019 – the end of the 2018/19 financial year.
Promise: In the next five years the ANC will massively expand public works programmes to create 6 million work opportunities
A work opportunity is paid work offered to someone on any of the expanded public works programme (EPWP) projects. The EPWP aims to provide “poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed”.
Work opportunities can run for any period of time, but typically last a few months. Examples include work on early childhood development programmes, home-based care programmes and roads maintenance projects.
Some learner-ships also count as work opportunities. These range from pharmacy assistance to tea production.
From the start of the 2014/15 financial year to September last year (the latest available data), a total of 4.3 million work opportunities were created.
|Work opportunities created through the expanded public works programme|
|Financial year||Work opportunities created|
|April to September 2018||778,317|
|Total: April 2014 to September 2018||4,303,964|
Sources: Department of public works annual reports (2014/15 to 2017/18) and EPWP report (second quarter, 2018/19)
When the same person is employed on different projects, each period of employment is counted as a work opportunity, which would mean that fewer than 4.3 million people benefited from the programme.
The 4.3 million work opportunities are 1.7 million short of the 6 million target in the ANC’s manifesto, with just six months remaining in which to fulfil the promise.
The department of public works concedes that it might not achieve the target. “Looking at the current reporting trends, the programme might create 5 million work opportunities by March this year,” says Stanley Henderson, deputy director-general at the department, who is responsible for the EPWP.
Can we trust the numbers?
In some cases, work opportunity numbers in the EPWP reports don’t match those in the department’s annual reports.
According to Henderson, this largely happens because public bodies underreport work opportunities.
“The figure in the annual report contains corrections that have been made as a result of auditing, by adding the work opportunities that had not been included in the original [EPWP] system report.”
The Auditor-General (AG) identified a number of “issues” with the capturing of data on work opportunities. These included dead beneficiaries, a lack of supporting evidence for work opportunities reported and the inclusion of beneficiaries on numerous projects when they only participated in one.
Asked whether the EPWP data are reliable, the AG’s office referred Africa Check/City Press to a 2017/18 report on government audit outcomes.
It identifies the department of public works as one of the departments that failed to report “in a reliable manner on the performance of their programmes”. It added that information on the programmes’ achievements “was not always gathered in a consistent manner or was not credible”.
The report indicates the reported number of work opportunities created in 2017/18 was not reliable. Henderson acknowledges that underreporting because of poor record-keeping by public bodies is a problem. “The EPWP work opportunity numbers reported are much higher on the ground.”
Despite the AG’s findings, he says, the data in the EPWP reports have been validated and are considered to be reliable by the department.
Verdict: In progress
Given the reported pace of delivery to date, it seems unlikely that 1.7 million work opportunities will be created within six months. The department estimates that the EPWP might create 5 million work opportunities by March – one million short of the target.
Promise: An additional 1.6 million homes will be connected to the electricity grid in the next five years
In 2014 – when the ANC made this promise – close to 12.8 million households had access to mains electricity, according to Stats SA’s General Household Survey.
This increased by 876,000 households to 13.7 million in 2017 (the latest available data).
The energy department said 1,164,758 homes were connected to the grid between April 2014 and October 2018. Spokesperson Thandiwe Maimane explained the difference between the two sets of numbers: “Stats SA has its own methodology, which is statistically based compared with our actual reported numbers based on projects we fund and monitor.”
|Number of homes connected to electricity in South Africa|
|Financial year||Number of grid connections|
|April to October 2018||122,485 (provisional)|
|Total: April 2014 to October 2018||1,164,758|
Source: Department of energy
The source of the numbers for the first three years is from the department’s annual reports.
The release of its annual report for 2017/2018 has been delayed but the department said the report would show 275,830 grid connections.
The number of connections installed from April to October last year – also provided by the department – has not been audited.
5 months to connect 435,000 houses
An additional 435,242 households would need to be connected between November 2018 and March 2019 if the ANC is to keep its manifesto promise.
Based on the pace of delivery to date, this seems unlikely.
Government projections also suggest the promise will not be kept. The energy department has reduced its five-year target. It had planned to connect 1.452 million households between 2014/2015 and 2018/2019. The new figure is 1.25 million.
Asked why the target was revised, Maimane said it was “due to budget reduction from National Treasury”.
Verdict: In progress
The provisional total for electricity connections to the grid installed up until October 2018, coupled with the downward revision of the department’s five-year target, suggests that the promise of 1.6 million connections is unlikely to be fulfilled
Promise: In the next five years, we will eliminate the backlog of title deeds.
In 2014, the title deed backlog was estimated to be between 900,000 and 1.5 million.
This was updated to 818,057 in the department of human settlements’ revised strategic plan for 2015 to 2020. The backlog consisted of 83,628 title deeds from before 1994 and 734,429 post-1994 title deeds.
Dr Mark Napier, principal researcher in the built environment unit of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, says the pre-1994 backlog is made up of the “few remaining” old township rental houses still not transferred to ownership for the occupants. The post-1994 backlog applies to government-subsidised housing such as RDP houses.
Between April 2014 and September last year (the latest available data), 254,240 backlog title deeds were issued.
|Number of backlog title deeds issued in South Africa|
|Financial year||Number of backlog title deeds|
|April to September 2018||35,976 (preliminary)|
|Total: April 2014 to September 2018||254,240|
Sources: Department of human settlements annual reports (2014/15 and 2017/18) and department of planning, monitoring and evaluation
This means that 563,817 title deeds would have to be issued within six months in order to fulfil the ANC’s 2014 manifesto promise of eliminating the backlog.
Can we trust the data?
In some cases, the recorded number of title deeds issued against the backlog was amended in subsequent annual reports.
Asked about the apparent discrepancy, Hassen Mohamed, head of local government performance assessment in the department of planning, monitoring and evaluation (DPME), said the numbers might change once they were reviewed by the Auditor-General (AG). “The numbers are adjusted in the following year’s annual report if found to be under- or overstated,” said Mohamed.
“[The] DPME does not have the capacity to do the verification and relies on the department’s [human settlements] verification database as well as the AG’s and provincial reports to triangulate and check if there are any inconsistencies.”
In its 2017/18 report on national and provincial audit outcomes, the AG says the department of human settlements is one of the departments that failed to report “in a reliable manner on the performance of its programmes”.
It says the information may not have been “always gathered in a consistent manner or was not credible”. The report indicates that the reported number of backlog title deeds issued in 2017/18 was unreliable.
Why the delay?
A cause of the delay in issuing title deeds was the failure to bring sites (individual plots of land) in specific neighbourhoods to the property market for transfer, said Napier. The final step in this process is the registration of individual sites in the names of their owners in the deeds registry.
A change in the way in which government payments were made to developers exacerbated this problem, he said.
Initially, a substantial payment was held back until title deeds had been registered in the name of the beneficiaries. From 2004, final payment could be made before this had taken place – removing the financial incentive to complete the titling process.
Another contributing factor, said Napier, was that some municipalities and provinces held back title deeds because of the prohibition on selling RDP houses before eight years had passed. “By the time they wanted to issue the title deeds, they found that significant numbers of the original residents had moved, or passed away.”
Napier said things should have improved recently because the title deeds restoration project (government’s recently introduced programme to transfer the remaining title deeds to residents who still have not received these) is now a funded programme.
But at the same time, the amount of low-hanging fruit might decrease as the backlog is reduced. Now, a greater proportion of complicated cases would remain. This would include people who died without a will and cases where property was transferred informally or where ownership was disputed.
The department of human settlements did not respond to detailed questions by the time of publication. The Estate Agency Affairs Board referred an enquiry to the department.
Based on the pace of delivery to date and the fact that the ANC has promised to “address” the title deed backlog in its 2019 manifesto, it appears that the promise will not be fulfilled by the end of the current financial year.
|Note: Lerato Monethi, the ANC’s national elections communications manager, acknowledged receipt of a request for comment on our findings on Wednesday and said the party would “revert”. However, no response was received within the 48 hours provided. She could not be reached via WhatsApp, email, SMS or phone on Friday. When the ANC does respond, City Press and Africa Check will update the online versions of these promises to reflect the party’s comment.|
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