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Mmusi Maimane’s SONA 2015 response fact-checked

The debate on President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address saw impassioned speeches by the leaders of South Africa’s two main opposition parties. We fact-checked key claims.

Researched by Kate Wilkinson

In his response to the State of the Nation Address, Democratic Alliance parliamentary leader Mmusi Maimane made a number of claims about electricity, employment, land reform and crime. Here are the claims that readers asked us to investigate.

Electricity

The claim: “Our economy has lost R300-billion since 2008 because, without a stable electricity supply, manufacturers cannot produce, investors are driven away and jobs are lost.”

Our verdict: A broad estimate

The Democratic Alliance obtained the R300-billion estimate from economist Dawie Roodt, chief economist at the Efficient Group, a JSE-listed financial services company.

Maimane’s chief of staff, André Coetzee, told Africa Check: “We engaged with Roodt on the methodology underlying his assertions and were satisfied that they were sound. His office also provided the technical data on which the figures were calculated for our researchers to review.”

Francois Stofberg, an economist at the Efficient Group, told Africa Check that they used different approaches in an attempt to “determine what the impact of a shortage of electricity supply is on the South African economy”. He explained that this included a “linear… forecast of economic growth before and after the electricity crisis”.

“Using this method we found that the economy would have been 10% larger in 2013 [when GDP stood at R3,400-billion] without the black-outs that occurred during the latter parts of 2007. Note that this excludes the recent black-outs,” Stofberg said.

He said that many other variables in the economy could have had a positive or negative effect on South Africa’s economic growth. These, he said, were difficult to quantify.

“However, it is evident from our estimates that a shortage of electricity… had a significant impact on GDP. Our estimates were an attempt to quantify these impacts,” said Stofberg. He added that “[n]one of these approaches are without criticism”.

The head of Wits University’s School of Economic and Business Sciences, Professor Jannie Rossouw, said that estimates like this would be influenced by the assumptions made by the economists.

“Naturally other assumptions will give other results, but [the Efficient Group’s] assumptions are sound enough,” said Rossouw.

Employment

The claim: “Despite all his past promises, what President Zuma failed to tell us last week was that, today, there are 1.6-million more South Africans without jobs than when he took office in 2009.”

Our verdict: Incorrect

[Note: This section was corrected on 22 January 2016, but the verdict has stayed the same. An explanation of the correction is provided at the end of the report.]

The figure of 1.6-million was calculated based on what they viewed as the broad unemployment rate, as released in Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey, Coetzee told Africa Check. This definition of employment includes both unemployed people and discouraged job seekers.

He provided a table showing the figures they had used from the survey, which compared data from April to June of 2009 (when Zuma took office) with October to December of 2014.

DA unemployment claim table

This, Coetzee said, showed that the number of unemployed people increased by 1.67-million – from 5.64-million in the second quarter of 2009 to 7.31-million at the end of the 2014.

However, while the DA used the right definition of broad unemployment (unemployed people plus discouraged job seekers) they used data from Stats SA’s calculation of people unemployed according to the narrow definition.

Instead they should have used Stats SA’s dataset on the number of people employed according to the broad unemployment definition. This shows that the number of unemployed people increased from 6.68 million in April to June of 2009 to 8.1 million in October to December of 2014.

Using the broad unemployment dataset, the number of unemployed people has therefore increased by by 1.42 million since Zuma took office, not 1.6-million as Maimane claimed.

Land reform

The claim: “The 17.5 million hectares of fertile soil in communal land areas must be unlocked for reform purposes. State-owned land must be fully audited and used to fast-track redistribution to deserving beneficiaries.”

Our verdict: Incorrect

Land reform numbers are tricky. Few accurate datasets exist and some of them are very outdated.

Take the land utilisation data set that forms the basis of Maimane’s claim. Although still in use by the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, it was compiled in 1991. (An updated version should be released towards the end of next year, said the department’s spokesman, Makenosi Maro.)

The 1991 data showed that in the former apartheid-era homelands there were 2.5-million hectares of potentially arable land and 12-million ha of grazing land. Together with all other land uses – such as for nature conservation, forestry and towns – this amounted to 17.1-million ha in total.

To their credit, the DA admitted this large error. Coetzee said: “The reference to the full area as comprising fertile soil is erroneous in this context, however the need for tenure reform for the areas remaining under communal land tenure remains and would unlock massive agricultural potential for land reform beneficiaries.”

But it is a fallacy to think there are millions of hectares of state land ready to be redistributed, said Alex Dubb, a researcher at the University of the Western Cape’s Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS). Dubb helped compile a factsheet on state land available for redistribution based on 2002 data and their calculations then showed that only 675,449 ha could possibly be redistributed.

In the meantime a state land audit has been carried out and government is busy registering all its properties uncovered during the process with the Deeds Office. Once this has been carried out, we will have a much better picture of how much state land is available for redistribution and how much municipal land is available as commonage to poor households.

Crime

The claim: “But while our communities are being over-run by drug lords the President said nothing about crime! Where are the specialized anti-drug units? Drug crime has doubled since they were taken away.”

Our verdict: Incorrect

André Coetzee, Maimane’s chief of staff, told Africa Check that “anti-drug units were disbanded in 2004, and drug-related crime has more than doubled between 2004 and 2013”.

He said this was based on the 2013 Crime Statistics released by the South African Police Service.

According to the South African Police Service, reported drug-related crime has tripled since 2004. The latest crime statistics show that there were 84,001 cases in 2004/05 and 260,732 cases in 2013/14.

The drug-related crime ratio increased 2.7 times over the same period from 180.3 cases per 100,000 people in 2004/05 to 492.1 cases per 100,000 people in 2013/14. Ratios allow for crime levels to be accurately compared between different years in which population sizes vary.

But an increase in the reported number of drug-related crimes does not automatically mean that these crimes are on the rise.

A factsheet prepared by the Institute for Security Studies for Africa Check noted that “[c]rimes such as the illegal possession of firearms and ammunition, drug-related crime and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs are detected during police action such as roadblocks and search and seizure operations. This means that these crimes will increase if there is an increase in police activity.”

Additional reporting by Anim van Wyk

Africa Check made an error when it first fact-checked Maimane’s claim regarding the increase in unemployed people under Zuma’s administration. We fact-checked the accuracy of the figures they used but failed to verify that the method they were using was correct. Our original findings can be viewed here. We have corrected the report and apologise for the error.  

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