A previous version of this report misstated the share of students receiving funding from National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) in 2014. It was 24.8%, not 21.9%. We have corrected the report below and apologise for the error.
South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), celebrated its 105th-anniversary last week. President Jacob Zuma delivered the party’s January 8th address in Soweto’s Orlando Stadium.
In this report, we fact-check claims Zuma made about job creation, load-shedding, housing, the matric pass rate, university funding and life expectancy.
At the time of publishing this report, we had not received a response from the ANC to questions asking for the source of Zuma’s statistics. (Note: We will update this report if we receive one.)
South African employment data is typically reported through two sets of statistics collected by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA): the Quarterly Labour Force Survey and the Quarterly Employment Survey.
The Quarterly Labour Force Survey is based on household surveys conducted by Stats SA in which data is collected on the work activities of people between 15 and 64 years. The Quarterly Employment Survey complements the Quarterly Labour Force Survey but in this case, businesses are surveyed to get data on formal sector jobs.
Let’s evaluate Zuma’s claim using both data sets.
While 67,000 jobs were created during the second quarter of 2016, the quarterly labour force data showed that in the first six months of last year, the country recorded net losses of 26,000 manufacturing jobs.
Between January and October 2016 a net of 55,000 manufacturing jobs was lost.
Data from Stats SA’s Quarterly Employment Survey doesn’t support Zuma’s claim either. It shows consistent job losses across the three-quarters of 2016, with overall manufacturing job losses of 19,000 in that time. In the first six months of 2016, South Africa recorded net job losses amounting to 26,000 manufacturing jobs.
Therefore neither the Stats SA datasets backs up Zuma’s claim. But why is there a discrepancy between the two?
Stats SA said in a statement that they are dependent on the data businesses supply. Improving the collection of such data, through better administrative systems in business, will help the agency reduce the wide differences between the two datasets. – Vinayak Bhardwaj
The phrasing of Zuma’s claim suggests that there has been no load-shedding – planned electricity blackouts by South Africa’s power utility Eskom to manage supply and demand – since August 2016. It appears to be an incorrect claim recycled from Zuma’s 2016 State of the Nation address.
At the time, it was incorrect because load-shedding last occurred on 14 September 2015, according to Eskom. It’s still incorrect and due for an update from Zuma’s speech writers. – Kate Wilkinson
Zuma’s claim is correct if “progressed” pupils are excluded from the calculation of the matric pass rate.
In 2016, 108,742 pupils nationally who failed grade 11 were allowed to move onto grade 12. Of these, 67,510 pupils went on to write their exams and 29,384 passed (43.5%).
When progressed learners are included in the calculation, the Free State’s pass rate drops to 88.2%. – Kate Wilkinson
Stats SA publishes life expectancy data annually as part of its mid-year population estimates.
Life expectancy for men and women rose from 59.9 years in 2012 to 61.6 in 2014, according to the 2016 estimates. The figure for 2016 is 62.4 years.
Stats SA is not the only organisation that produces life expectancy estimates for South Africa, however. Given that they are estimates, the figures all differ slightly, Dr Leigh Johnson from the University of Cape Town’s school of public health and family medicine told Africa Check.
Her department’s model – the Thembisa mathematical model – estimates that life expectancy increased from 60.7 years in 2012 to 62 in 2014.
“The important point is that most of the agencies’ estimates show that life expectancy has been increasing steadily,” Johnson added. – Vinayak Bhardwaj
If Zuma’s numbers add up, it would mean that approximately 39% of South Africans live in housing provided by government.
South Africa’s department of human settlements told Africa Check that the most recent available figures were from March 2016. The department’s spokesman Ndivhuwo Mabaya directed us to a press release from April 2016 which stated that “4.3 million houses and opportunities” had been delivered since 1994 which had resulted in more than “20 million people” being “housed”.
Mabaya said that the figure was calculated by multiplying the number of housing opportunities delivered by the average South African household size, which he said was 5 people according to Statistics South Africa.
Data provided by Statistics South Africa doesn’t show this, however.
The 2016 Community Survey showed that on average a South African household was made up of 3.3 people. Based on Mabaya’s explanation of the calculation, this would result in 14.2 million people being housed – not over 20 million. (Note: We raised this discrepancy with Mabaya and he said he would provide the research that supported his figures. At the time of publishing, we had not received it. We will update this report if we do.)
Varying household sizes
There are other problems with the calculation. Previous government estimates don’t seem to align with the most recent measure.
“At the very least, that they are using an inconsistent figure for household size,” director of research and advocacy at the Socio-Economic Rights Institute of South Africa, Lauren Roysten, told Africa Check.
In 2011/12, the department estimated that “between 1994 and June 2011, the government built over three million homes for South Africans, giving shelter to over 13 million people“. This would mean that there were on average 4.3 people per household.
The South African government’s 20-year review claimed that “since 1994, the democratic government has delivered approximately 3.7 million subsidised housing opportunities for the very poor, giving a home to approximately 12.5 million people”. This works out to an average of 3.4 people per household.
If Zuma and the department’s most recent claim is true then it would mean that an additional 7 million people have been housed through a mere 600,000 housing opportunities since 2014. This would imply that on average 11.7 people live in each house that was delivered.
However, not all “housing opportunities” are houses. The term refers to a number of different housing solutions.
It can refer to a house or subsidised rental accommodation. However, it can also refer to the provision of a “serviced site”. This is not a house. It is a piece of land, which should be supplied with water, electricity and sanitation, on which a recipient can build their own house.
In this case, a person can not be said to be “housed” by the government. – Kate Wilkinson
This claim is tricky because applications for NSFAS funding are still open. By “currently”, Zuma may therefore well be referring to how many students NSFAS expects to cover.
To evaluate the claim, we need two main numbers: first, the latest available figure for how many students are enrolled across the higher education sector and secondly, the latest available figure for the number of students NSFAS covers. With this in hand, we can work out the percentage of students NSFAS supports.
But these figures are difficult to track down. We first contacted NSFAS and the department of higher education and training a week ago but they are yet to provide us with updated figures.
The latest available audited figures of the number of students enrolled in higher education are for 2014. A report by the department of higher education and training shows that 1,671,538 students studied at public universities as well as technical and vocational education and training (TVET) colleges in that year.
A total of 414,792 students received bursaries and loans from NSFAS in 2014, making up 24.8% of the total student enrollment at public institutions.
We managed to locate various preliminary figures for 2015, showing a projected university enrolment figure of 1,020,190 and 710,535 students at TVET colleges, for a total of 1,730,725. The 2015 annual report of NSFAS shows that 419,949 students were assisted in that year, a share of 24.2%.
NSFAS expected to support 405,000 students in 2017, spokesman Kagisho Mamabolo told Africa Check. Given that this figure is in line with the numbers of 2014 and 2015, it is hard to see how Zuma’s claim could be correct. – Vinayak Bhardwaj
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