No evidence for SA government’s ‘truly amazing’ house delivery rate

South Africa’s housing minister claims that her department delivers 1,200 houses per day. Departmental statistics suggests it’s a third of that.

UPDATE: After the publication of this report, Minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s spokesman sent through the study that he cited as the source of the claim. The one-page document shows that Sisulu’s claim was, for the most part, based on the increase of formal households from 5,834,819 in 1996 to 13,404,199 in 2016.

Houses delivered by the human settlements department and an estimate of “residential buildings” completed in 2016/17 were added to this to bring the total up to 7,900,352. This number was then divided by 23 years (although it should have been 20) and then divided by 286 – which is described in the document as the average “building days per year” – to reach a figure of 1,201 houses per day.

These houses were not, however, all delivered by government and Sisulu cannot claim them as an “achievement” or “success” of her department, as she did in her speech.

South African members of parliament were sceptical when the country’s housing minister boasted about her department’s service delivery rate.

“The achievements of this department are enormous, even if we are to say it ourselves… To sum up our successes: our daily rate is truly amazing,” Minister Lindiwe Sisulu told members of the human settlements’ portfolio committee during her 2017 budget vote speech.

“We deliver 1,200 houses per day,” Sisulu repeated twice for emphasis. Some members then started jeering and heckling.

Does the housing minister have her numbers straight?

No source to back up claim

Workers building the Emerald Sky housing project in East London in June 2010. Photo: GCIS
Workers building the Emerald Sky housing project in East London in June 2010. Photo: GCIS

An online copy of Sisulu’s speech shows that she went slightly off script, leaving out the end of the sentence. It reads: “To sum up our successes, our daily rate is truly amazing, measuring that we build 1,200 houses per day over 23 years”.

If her claim is true, it would mean that government had built or delivered over 10 million houses in 23 years.

Her spokesman, Vusi Tshose, told Africa Check that Sisulu was “referring to a study that was done by someone else”. He wouldn’t say who but promised to send us a copy of the study.

At the time of publishing, we had not received it. (Note: We will update this report if we do.)

‘10 million is a lot’

Africa Check tried to find the study but didn’t have any luck. We asked two experts if they had come across the statistic Sisulu cited.

Director of research and advocacy at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa (SERI), Lauren Royston, told Africa Check that she was unaware of any study that had reached this conclusion.

Associate professor at the University of the Witwatersrand’s school of architecture and planning, Aly Karam, said the same: he didn’t know about any study that put the delivery of housing since 1994 at over 10 million.

Karam co-authored a recent book chapter with Professor Marie Huchzermeyer on South Africa’s housing policy between 1994 and 2014, which looked at the department’s housing delivery data.

“Ten million is a lot – they are not at that level,” Karam told Africa Check.

3 million houses since 1994

Statistics from Sisulu’s department don’t back up her claim. The housing department’s website shows that government built 2,835,275 houses between 1994/95 and 2013/14.

A further 95,210 were built in 2014/15 and 100,339 were built in 2015/16. Data for 2016/17 – the most recent financial year – is not available yet.

Add these together and the total number of houses delivered by the South African government since 1994 comes to 3,030,824.

This works out to an average of 377 houses being built each day over 22 years – a third of the number claimed by Sisulu.

These housing delivery numbers have not been independently verified, however. Huchzermeyer and Karam advise that the they “should be read with caution” and viewed as “indicative rather than entirely conclusive”.

Conclusion: Government delivered 377 houses per day, not 1,200

South African housing minister Lindiwe Sisulu’s claim that her department delivers “1,200 houses per day” is not supported by her department’s statistics.

Sisulu’s spokesman said that the statistic was from a study “done by someone else”. He did not provide the study, although he promised to do so.

Government statistics show that South Africa has built 3,030,824 houses for low-income people over 22 years – an average of 377 per day.

Edited by Anim van Wyk

Housing delivery has declined

Sisulu has previously pointed out that housing delivery is on the decline – in fact, it has almost halved since its peak in 1998/99. That year 235,635 houses were delivered – an average of 645 per day.

In 2015/16 – the last financial year we have data for – the daily average had dropped to 275.

Serviced sites are not houses

The South African government also provides another form of housing opportunity called a “serviced site”. These sites are not houses.

The sites are pieces of land that are connected to water, electricity and sanitation. Recipients are responsible for building their own houses.

When serviced sites are included with houses, the number of total housing opportunities provided by the South African government between 1994 rises to 4,060,795.


Additional reading

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