Workshop on the non-financial census of municipalities

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Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs

22 October 2014
Chairperson: Mr M Mdakane (ANC); Acting Chairperson: Mr N Masondo (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The meeting focused on the non-financial census of the municipalities. The initial agenda was slightly expanded to reflect Statistics South Africa’s (Stats SA’s) responsibility of collecting data for the purpose of use when it interacts with the various sets of data, rather than presenting only on its functions, which revolved mainly around how they collected different series of data and produced results around specific subjects, as well as providing an intelligent way of dealing with the output of the collected data.

The presentation looked into the dimensions of poverty, focusing particularly on health, education, living standards and economic activity, as they were the issues driving the questions concerning development in South Africa. The key area considered was the indigent sector and the non-financial report of the statistics which covered this aspect. It looked into the issue of free basic service rebates for this group of people, and whether this policy was working. There was a uniform test to identify indigents, but the increasing number of indigents reflected the deficiency with which the administration was doing its job.

Three poverty lines were used to measure the intensity of poverty in the country -- the food poverty line, the lower-bound poverty line and the upper-bound poverty line. Income poverty was comprised of the upper-bound and lower-bound poverty lines, as well as multi-dimensional poverty. In South Africa, eight percent of the population suffered multi-dimensional poverty and 33% of the population had either one or more of their needs not being met along the three poverty lines. According to the headcounts, Msinga and Ntabankulu recorded the highest levels of poverty among the municipalities and the only solution to this problem was education.

The Maputo Corridor Development had been implemented to foster development in the specified areas around it. However, the Corridor had not achieved the majority of its targets, which raised the question of whether it had been a worthwhile venture in the first place. The failures of the Corridor were blamed mainly on its distance, as it was too long to achieve all its intended purposes.

Members asked why there had been fewer protests in Limpopo compared to other provinces, and whether the information Stats SA received from the municipalities could be relied upon. They were told that the situation in Limpopo was because of the development plans that had been implemented for the province in 2001-2002 by the leadership of Limpopo at the time, in conjunction with Stats SA. This position was not about to change unless a different development strategy was adopted for the province, which the people did not agree with. Members were also told that the statistical information from the municipalities was accurate and could be relied upon to promote the future development of South Africa.    

Meeting report

Opening remarks
Mr N Masondo (ANC) opened the meeting on behalf of the Chairperson, who was running late. He requested an introduction of all Members present at the meeting, after which he called for the presentation from the Statistician-General.

Non-Financial Census of Municipalities
Mr Pali Lehohla, Statistician-General, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), tabled the presentation on the Non-Financial Census of Municipalities. He said that Stats SA had received the brief for their presentation from the committee secretary, but thought that the brief/agenda needed to be expanded to reflect Stats SA’s responsibility for collecting data for the purpose of use when it interacted with various sets of data, rather than presenting only on the functions of Stats SA. These revolved mainly on how they collected different series of data and produced results around the specific subjects, as well as providing an intelligent way of dealing with the output of the data collected in relation to all other related outputs, all of which provided a deeper understanding of what a non-financial census might actually imply.

A variety of items had been added to the original brief to stimulate the discussion towards the use of data collected, rather than the production processes of data. This had been done to propel the Committee’s critical oversight function, because Stats SA’s function of producing data was meant for those who used it for monitoring and evaluation purposes. Data needed to be used in an integrated fashion, rather than in the way we normally perceive it, so Stats SA had brought live examples of how the data was used, where it had been used and the outcomes of using the data. The presentation was also going to look into the aspect of how people died in their environments, because part of what government had to deal with was to postpone death as much as possible so that people could live long and productive lives, as well as present on the services they provided generally. They looked at the dimensions of poverty, particularly focusing on health, education, living standards and economic activity, because these were dimensions on which the Committee could exercise oversight. The dimensions were not a comprehensive structure of the functions of the Portfolio Committee, but aspects driving the questions on development in South Africa.

The key area of focus for the presentation was the indigent population and the non-financial report on statistics on this aspect. They were looking into the issue of free basic service policy/rebates for the indigents. The rebates included six kiloliters of free water and 50kwh of free electricity per household per month, amongst others. The presentation looked into the question of whether the policy on rebates for indigents was working.

Overall, there were 3.4 million indigent households in the whole of South Africa, with the highest number registered in the Eastern Cape. Indigents in South Africa were identified and registered. The consideration in this regard was the function of registration -- it might have been completed, or not. In many ways, the numbers of indigents reflect the deficiency with which the administration did its job. Where the numbers were higher than other provinces, this reflected that the administration was doing its job better in one province compared to the other. Generally, uniform tests were done to identify the indigents but the progression towards the identification was the function of the deficiency.

In terms of the Reconstruction and Development Programme (RDP) standards, there had been progression on the access to water in the period 2009-2013. Free basic water in South Africa could be received by all households, including those that were not for indigents, but the facility was focusing largely on indigents. The main challenge with this facility lay around targeting, because it was very difficult to focus the facility only on indigents. Thus there was the requirement to register indigents in their areas of settlement because it was common to find people who were not indigents settled in areas with indigents and, as such, benefited from the free basic water facility. However, at the minimum all citizens of South Africa were entitled to basic water, irrespective of whether they were indigent or not, but free basic water was supposed to be for indigents.

The question which needed to be asked was whether there had been an impact with regard to the provision of indigent services, and the test to assess this impact was by looking at the poverty levels in the country, because the indigent services targeted poverty. Another question which needed to be asked was whether the indigent policies had affected the poverty levels in the country. Poverty was not a matter of income but a multiplicity of factors which were measured using multiple indices, and could be mapped using the poverty headcount by municipalities.

There were three poverty lines used to measure the intensity of poverty in the country -- the food poverty line, the lower-bound poverty line and the upper-bound poverty line. Income poverty was comprised of the upper-bound and lower-bound poverty lines, as well as multi-dimensional poverty. In South Africa, eight percent of the population suffered multi-dimensional poverty and 33% of the population had either one or more of their needs not being met along the three poverty lines. The eight percent of the population suffering from multi-dimensional poverty were under the food poverty line of R321. The food poverty line is a money measure.  From the available statistics at Stats SA, the food poverty line corresponds with the cut-off point of 33%, where you find eight percent of South Africans actually saying that they are poor both multi-dimensionally and also poor in terms of income. Regardless of whether it is the same people making these claims, the coincidence of this percentage is very interesting and has impacted the Millenium Development Goal (MDG) reports, which now show that South Africa’s food poverty line had dropped by $1.25. What this represents is that the policy positions that look at indigents through services like free basic water and electricity, amongst others, have had an impact on the reduction of poverty that translates into eight percent. This does not mean that eight percent is a good statistic, but the reduction of poverty to eight percent is certainly a consequence of the policy actions that have been put in place. Statistically using headcounts, Msinga and Ntabankulu recorded the highest levels of poverty among the municipalities. However the areas that border KwaZulu-Natal and the Eastern Cape had a fair concentration of poverty, compared to KwaZulu-Natal. Overall across the country, poverty had been impacted by the policy positions that the government had implemented.

At this stage, what the Members needed to understand were the drivers of poverty for the period 2001 to 2011. Living standards like assets, dwellings, sanitation, water and lighting, contribute as drivers of poverty and these were the challenges that government had addressed with the provision of basic water and electricity, among others.  Education, especially years of schooling, had a major impact on poverty and was currently the second highest factor influencing poverty, with the highest being unemployment. The level of unemployment as a key driver of poverty had intensified as compared to 2001 and this increase was strongly related to the years of schooling. Education and unemployment were strongly correlated drivers of poverty. All the drivers of poverty had to be taken into account, but the most important and visible factor to be taken into account was how to train and educate people.

Unemployment, inequality and poverty were all ailments that had to be dealt with. Community anger and major service delivery protests were what happened because of poverty, and major service delivery protests had increased 20-fold in the period from 2004-2012. Major service protests had been recorded in North West, Free State and Eastern Cape, with moderate numbers in KwaZulu-Natal and very few in Limpopo and the Northern Cape.
He said Members needed to discuss the issue of the Maputo Corridor because it was one of the developments that had been very conspicuous, and stood to have a great impact on South Africa’s development going forward. Members needed to be informed of the events of the Maputo Corridor since it was launched to ascertain whether it had led to maximized social development and increased employment opportunities, and whether it had increased the participation of historically disadvantaged populations in the development activities of South Africa. The Maputo Corridor started in Johannesburg and moved all the way to Mozambique. The question that needed to be asked was whether the municipalities within the corridor were better off than the municipalities across the country, because if the corridor had brought some visible development, these needed to be highlighted because they made the corridor a better space to live in when compared to other municipalities.

There had been several positive impacts from the corridor on local communities, like housing, employment, and tourism. Stats SA had reflected on some indicators to look at the impact of the Maputo Corridor on education, employment, migration, and the provision of basic services, and had used the census to assess the impact. The population statistics showed that since 1996, there was actually a higher proportion of the population aged 15-64 that was employed in the corridor than Mpumalanga. However, the statistics in the Maputo Development Corridor (MDC) region had actually dropped below the Mpumalanga levels in 2011, and this had been the case with the whole of South Africa with regard to employment of persons aged 15-64 years. The MDC was performing much better in mining than the rest of the country, and the comparisons had been made from 1996 to date.

The question which needed to be asked was whether the MDC region had shown any significant difference in terms of development when compared with Mpumalanga and the rest of the country. The MDC did not have a great impact on agriculture but slightly impacted infrastructure and employment, if compared from 1996 to 2007. Had the corridor delivered services in the municipalities? The broad conclusion was that the corridor had delivered value in terms of developing South Africa’s economy, but there had not been any difference in terms of the people living around the corridor. One of the reasons why the corridor did not have a great impact on development was because it was too long -- 600 kilometers. Its development functions could have been easily ascertained if one node had been in Johannesburg and the other node in Pretoria, and it had run across.

There was a need to inquire into who was supposed to monitor the things that were supposed to have been delivered by the corridor, such as skills development, to ascertain whether they were working or not. There was a need to expand from corridor development to look into other aspects of development for the country. One had to ask what policy positions the country had taken -- which position and which specifications? In terms of specifications, one had to look at buildings because during development, one had to engage with construction of structures like malls and houses, and this had to follow a particular process.

For the period under review, Gauteng had the highest value of building plans passed when compared to other provinces and this was followed by the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, but the question which needed to be asked was where these buildings were actually going to be built. Space was a very important aspect, because it was a driver of development or non-development and had been used during apartheid to achieve development and non-development objectives. It had delivered well for the whites but very badly for the blacks. With regard to the buildings completed in the period under review, Gauteng still had the highest number of buildings completed, but they needed to inquire into where the buildings had been built so that they could quantify how much had been spent in a year on buildings for the whole of South Africa.

Stats SA had done research on Johannesburg, Cape Town and the Rustenburg municipality, looking into their public expenditure, which showed that they had achieved 80% of their objective on infrastructure development. They had also looked into the spatial development framework and had prioritized areas like Gauteng and the south western townships, where the total investment had been marginalized. They had also looked into the total investment on the roads and the investment in the corridor, to ascertain whether it would drive diversification. The census showed where people were living in areas like Gauteng. People were actually living far away from the places that were industrialized and this indicated that the apartheid city model had been reinforced and as such, the question which needed to be asked was where they had to go from there, because everything that was being provided, especially for the indigents, reinforced the apartheid system.

There was a need to look into the contents of the policy positions and the instruments meant to facilitate corridor development, as well as to inquire where Stats SA had been all this time to shed more light on the aforementioned issues. There was a need to think differently, look at people, places and different possibilities and engage more with the possibilities and how vigorously the possibilities are questioned. They had to use statistics to monitor and evaluate what they were doing, change policy where it was needed, make the decisions that were required, increase their knowledge and understanding, as well as encourage the use of statistics by the leadership, citizens and the state. Information was very important because it generated benefit, and the focus was meant to be on the people.

From the documented tabled statistics, there was a bathtub distribution of households with flushing toilets amongst the 240 municipalities, where the majority of the population in the municipalities did not have flushing toilets. A similar bathtub distribution was recorded with refuse removal from the municipalities. It was concentrated mainly in the Eastern Cape. There was a bell-shaped distribution in the tabulated statistics of the proportion of the population that was unemployed, with Limpopo recording the highest level of unemployment, at greater than 71%. The statistics enabled them to point out the areas for informal dwellings as well as provided data on the head of household unemployment. There was data available across the country; so what Stats SA needed to do see how it could engage the data and monitor it consistently because, from the Maputo Corridor, it could be seen that things happened beyond what the intentions were.

There was need to ascertain what the policy positions could do where the statistics indicated areas with less than five percent access to water. The statistics showed a high concentration of households, especially in Limpopo, with latrines. Access to internet within the municipalities was less than 10%, yet internet access was absolutely the solution to give South African school going children the opportunity for better education.

There were statistics on the levels of piped water within the wards, and these helped to highlight the wards that needed to be concentrated on for the provision of this service. The only problem with trying to resolve this problem was that often people did not know their ward numbers or their ward councillors, but the place names were very important. Stats SA had all the necessary layers of data so that in the event of trying to tackle some of the related problems, they could refer to the normal place names, because the ward numbers were unknown to the people and at times did not even know the ward councillors.

Generally, Stats SA’s view was that a poor area would always be a poor area, but this status did not have to affect the neighbours of a given area. An example was the difference between Sandton and Alexandra Township.  Hot spot analysis helped to analyse such neighbourhoods to ascertain whether such areas were neighbours in the strict sense of the word, since if they were neighbours they were supposed to be uniform, but geography stipulated that neighbours were not necessarily the same.

There were areas where the under-five mortality rate was very high, like Daggakraal which registered a higher under five mortality rate than other municipalities. The Free State generally registered the highest levels of mortality when compared to the others, with the major cause of death being infectious diseases.

Mr Lehohla said that the purpose of the presentation was to show the Members a full spectrum of how society functioned by taking them through the non-financial statistics of the municipalities, as well as aspects of government intervention. All the data from Stats SA was free and accessible to all members of the public in South Africa. Stats SA had expanded the agenda for their presentation to show how the economy and society had performed in different areas of concern --for example poverty, in order to identify the key drivers of poverty like unemployment and the lack of education. The presentation had also spoken to areas where there had been policy failures and the question was how they would get fixed and why data was very important in trying to deal with the given policy failures going forward. Of importance to the Committee was the Presidential infrastructure programme, to ascertain how it was going to be a game changer and what actions needed to be taken to ensure this, with specific reference to local government structures. They had to find ways of how to monitor it so that it yields the results that were intended. The presentation had highlighted areas where the government had spent a lot of money, but had achieved no results, so it needed to engage in a game changer. Stats SA believed its contribution to game changing would be the data that tracked what was intended against that which was being done.

Mr C Matsepe (DA) said he was surprised the presentation had showed that Limpopo had fewer protests than the rest of the provinces in the country. He wondered what Stats SA described as low levels of protests, because he knew for certain that Limpopo was partially populated with areas of traditional leaders, and these areas did not have water. He was surprised, as other provinces were crying out over this problem, but Limpopo was silent. The Committee should tell them to rise to the occasion and register their voice like all other communities.

Mr M Hlengwa (IFP) said that he was keenly interested in the slide about water supply where it highlighted Abaqulusi municipality and the perception that the water problem was actually concentrated in the Umkanyakude area. He requested an explanation, because it seemed like this was a focus area that nobody was speaking about. He wondered how Stats SA assessed the impact of the changes that had been caused by the changing of boundaries and wards where certain areas had been moved from one province to the other over the years, premised on the fact that they wanted to improve on service delivery. Had the boundary changes actually translated into the changes that people had wanted to see and how then had they affected the provincial numbers that were reflected in the statistics. 

Mr M Mapulane (ANC) commended the Statistician General and his delegation for their presentation. Even though the first intention had been to look at the survey on the non-financial census of municipalities, the Committee had benefited a great deal from the modified agenda of the presentation because it looked at other issues in the country. It was useful for the Committee to learn that statistically the introduction of free basic services by local government and municipalities had impacted on poverty in the country. Although they were disjointed aspects because they were applied by different municipalities in different parts of the country, their impact had not really been evaluated by the municipalities, so the information was very useful to the Committee, as they monitored the municipalities and how they implemented free basic services in relation to the developmental goals of the country on the reduction of poverty. This issue concerned all Committee Members wherever it occurred, and their pre-occupation needed to be about the terrible challenges that were facing the country, like unemployment, poverty and inequality. One fundamental question that the Committee needed to consider while going through the results of the census was whether there was any relationship or correlation between the number of protests and the extent of the access to services by the communities in the various provinces. The presentation showed that at least 50% of households in the provinces had access to piped water. However, only eight percent of the households in KwaZulu-Natal had access to piped water but the province had recorded the least number of service protests when compared to the other provinces and as such, he could not see the link between the service delivery protests and the areas where the local population had not really felt the impact of the introduction of democracy in terms of access to services. He requested the delegation from Stats SA to deliberate further on the issue.

He was a little bit disappointed with the information the Committee had received on the Maputo Corridor development. The project was one of the key public-private partnerships where the State was leveraging the resources of the private sector for the delivery of public services through a concession that the project was going to have a multiplier effect as a result of investment in the public road infrastructure. It would not only facilitate tourism and the movement of people but also increase employment opportunities in the areas of the corridor development. He wondered whether this was an indictment of the project, since some critics had argued that the project benefited the private sector more than the public sector. Many people were criticizing the e-toll system and the Maputo Corridor Development had the most tolled road in the country. He wondered why, despite its limited success, especially with regard to the public sector, the private sector had continued to extract value from their participation in the corridor development.

The difference between poverty and living a good life was based on going to school. It was important for society generally to preach the importance of going to school, because there was no way out of poverty other than through education and the statistics had proved this fact. The Committee needed to preach this message aggressively.       

Ms N Mthembu (ANC) said that the presentation had been of a great assistance to the Committee and was personally an empowerment and an eye opener in terms of the monitoring activities taking place within the country. It had identified loopholes that they were experiencing in the developments that they were bringing to the people, thinking that they would better their lives, but which was not the case. Thus, in the end, the Committee found itself with good initiatives which were not benefiting the people, like the Maputo Corridor issue. She recommended that going forward, they needed to ensure that they strengthened their monitoring of the instituted projects. The presentation had made mention of the Presidential infrastructure programme that was being implemented, and as they got closer to it, it needed to be closely monitored so that at the end of the day it yielded the results that they were anticipating. She inquired about the relationship of Stats SA with the local government, stating that if the ward councillors had the necessary information from Stats SA to execute their responsibilities, they would act on the information appropriately and it would be easy for the specified services to be passed on to the people.

Mr K Mileham (DA) asked if there was some way that Stats SA could overlay the various data sets so as to determine the correlation between service delivery and basic services -- for example, the access to piped water and flushing toilets and the correlation to the infant mortality rate, because this to him was a logical correlation of issues and was something that they needed to look at. He wondered whether there was an increased mortality rate in areas of poor sanitation and where they did not have piped water. These were the kind of issues that he would want to know as a politician and they were necessary for the ward councillors. The presentation had highlighted the importance of this data because it enabled the ward councillors to know what the issues were, but the question remained, “how would the ward councillors access this information?” He said that the non-financial census of municipalities highlighted very interesting data, but he wondered how reliable the source of the data was because from his own understanding, most of the data came from the municipalities. However, when they were questioned on the accuracy of the data they often stated that they did not know about it and that it was old and out of date information. He wondered how up-to-date and reliable the information was and whether the municipalities were prepared to stand by the information they were giving Stats SA.

Mr B Bhanga (DA) commended the presentation and the active engagement of the Statistician General in the work of the Department, because he had seen him on several occasions in Port Elizabeth conducting this project. He was encouraged by his commitment. It was this kind of commitment to assigned duties that the people saw and it meant that he understood the urgency of service to the people. This was the kind of official needed to serve the people.

The presentation had raised an important issue around spatial planning. It had stipulated that there were minimal movements into certain areas because the apartheid framework had continued to exist and had entrenched itself. He had seen government investing in urban renewal, but the same urban renewal embraced the apartheid framework because it was based on building infrastructure in urban areas, and this sent a message to people to continue staying where they stayed. He wondered what Stats SA’s view was on investment in the inner city, and also that of people living in the inner city. Was this investment addressing the apartheid framework problem? In his view, it was not because the local councillors were not interested in urban investment or living in the inner city -- they were mainly interested in RDP housing. The type of investment they had put across was for the whites, and if development was to be started in that respect in the inner cities, it would start to become a problem by highlighting that a particular municipality had continued to prioritise white areas. Investment in building infrastructure did not relate to residential infrastructure, but they needed to look into what the municipalities invested in to ascertain what Stats SA was talking about. The open spaces that were available were not there to address the issues that had been raised with regard to residential areas, but instead were there to address new investment in complexes, and this would defeat the issue that the Committee was trying to put across. The urban development system was not sustainable for the future because South Africa had a mixed economy and would continue to have a mixed economy and as such, there was no concerted effort by government to try and address the issue. He knew that there was work being done in the city of Johannesburg, for example, because it was dilapidated but this was not the example he was looking for. He wanted Stats SA to look into areas with critical levels of poverty, so as to give him an appropriate answer to the concerns that had been raised.

He wondered whether the political issues of the country at the time were responsible for the increased level of service delivery protests. He was deliberately asking the question because of the rise of public protests across the country and wondered whether this rise could be limited to the political issues facing the country at the time. There had been a period when the country was faced with increased levels of xenophobic attacks, yet government had accelerated service delivery during that period. The Western Cape had ranked better than all other provinces with regard to service delivery on issues like sanitation and toilet facilities, among others, and he wondered whether this performance was attributed to a political agenda that in the Western Cape they were politically motivated to provide these public services to the people. There was a need to identify the problems leading to service delivery protests because they were escalating and it seemed like nobody was stepping in to try and resolve the problem. He also wondered whether the service protests in the Western Cape fuelled service protests for the rest of the country, and whether it could be said that the service protests were politically motivated because of the difference in the levels of protests in 2004 to 2007. He was of the view that the provision of public services was political and started during the period of the xenophobic attacks and had never stopped since people got to learn that they were the only way they could raise their concerns with government, but wondered whether the increase in the public service protests was because of the inability of government to contain political issues or whether it spoke to the statistics of the current service problems in the country. The data that had been presented on what was happening in the Western Cape did not exactly reflect what was happening there in terms of public service protests.

With regard to education; the presentation had indicated that education could be used as a tool to mitigate the poverty problem in the country, but he wondered whether the country was able to adequately invest in education. He also wondered whether the general public could access the presented report on Stats SA’s website without delays in the system, which often discouraged people from seeking information using internet services.

The Chairperson said that the information that had been provided indicated that the levels of education for black children had gone down, rather than leveling the playing field. The country could measure the quality of its democracy only by assessing the living conditions of the critical role players because it could not be measured with those that were privileged. The critical role players were the African black women, because they were the most unemployed, uneducated and infected with diseases. It was education that was going to help the country defeat the different kinds of poverty and inequality going forward. He wondered whether there was another game changer to resolve the aforementioned problems other than education, and why there had been no correlation of the data submitted, yet it was readily available, accurate and free. Despite the fact that the information was readily available and accurate; there was a gap between the formulation of what should be done and the information that was available, processed and accurate.

There had been a lot of policy failures, but he wondered what the problem was in terms of the views of the Statistician General, because all the problems that had been raised had to be looked into -- they were part of COGTA and the cooperative governance side.

Generally speaking, there was no correlation between public protests and delivery of services. There was a need to raise issues that were accurate and not a general perception of issues because the general perception could be wrong. There were areas with a high delivery of services, but people were still protesting -- like Diepsloot in Johannesburg, which was a little more developed compared to how it was before, but had protests almost every month. Thus, the correlation between the two aforementioned was what was missing, since people in areas where services were provided often marched in protest asking for the same services that were availed like water and electricity, among others. Overall, this simply meant that their protests were about basic services but in terms of motivation, they were raising another issue altogether.

He thought it was appropriate at this stage for the Members to look into the policy levels because the existing problems showed that there was a failure of policy. He did not think that the occurrence of the public service protests was systematic -- that if they happened in one area, they were likely to spread to other areas. For example, there were areas that were well developed but were still protesting, while on the other hand there were areas that were poorly developed but did not have any protests, like Vulamehlo municipality. The more people were educated, the more they understood their political responsibilities, thus the demand for services resulted in protests.

All the aforementioned issues were very important to COGTA at the national level, particularly with the Committee, so Stats SA needed to assist the Committee to highlight ways in which they could be of help to them in trying to address the problems that they were raising. This was because they were a Committee that coordinated the activities of all spheres of government and it would be a good idea to render their assistance to ensure they added value to the information that was produced by Stats SA.

Statistics South Africa’s response
Mr Lehohla thanked the Members for their questions. They were very profound and required a lot more engagement because the data was massive and required a well thought through plan, monitoring and evaluation. Future engagements were necessary so that they could adequately deliberate on the issues raised, but his team would look into the questions and provide the necessary responses.

Stats SA had failed in demonstrating the value of its statistics, and many statistics offices the world over experienced a similar problem. When they started the census, they had realised that people were expecting them to perform particular duties. When engagement started through the census, they had managed to drive their message and create the necessary visibility on the importance of data. However, they needed even further engagement because in the process of management of data and everything around it, a lot more was needed. They were getting there, and this was how they wanted to handle issues.

With regard to the relationship between local government and Stats SA, he said that it had been a difficult journey to get to where they were at the moment, because it had not been easy to get local government to make use of the researched data, although the data had been there since 1996. They had tried on several occasions to avail local government with the data, but often  when they had been given the opportunity to present the data, it happened when the officials were about to leave office and as such did not pay attention to their presentation. Probably the best approach to presenting the data would have been demonstrating it earlier, to enable COGTA to understand the significance of the data they were being given, rather than telling them that it was important, which did not seem to work. He added that if given an opportunity, they still wanted to interact with COGTA on their services.

With regard to the service delivery protests, he said that the broader issue was how to manage development information. If you managed it badly, it would bite you; if you managed it well, you got results. So Stats SA was trying to manage the development information for the country, because this was basically what was at the heart of their operations in order to engage with the expectations of the country. In South Africa; there had been service delivery but the process of the delivery was in a competitive environment where the nature of the competition was political and the politics created a situation which made the expectations unmanageable. Although delivery created its own problems, the problems were minor compared to the destructive political contestation. Linked to this was the intensity that some political leaders used, such as building RDP houses all over so that they could be representatives, and this was defeating the diversification policy.

The problems highlighted as a result of the data produced were fortunately supposed to be resolved by the Committee and not Stats SA, or with the help of Stats SA. Their role was to ensure that they provided all the necessary data, which they had not yet done. They were willing to take the blame for that. Thus the claims from the public that the political leaders lacked political will were untrue, because the politicians’ will was driven by facts and not given by God.

Solving issues around housing was important but if this was intertwined with other issues, it would result in problems in the future, and this was not an appropriate position. One of the key reasons for the Maputo corridor had been to strengthen trade between South Africa and Maputo, and it had succeeded in this. However, the data showed that there was no evidence that the other things that were supposed to have been delivered, were delivered, so there had been no difference between the corridor and the areas that did not have a corridor in terms of development. So when people made protests along the corridor, one realised that it brought with it a lot of problems and the scientific reasons behind this failure, among other things, was because the corridor was too long and most of its benefits got dissipated.

He development plans made for Limpopo in 2001-2002 had escalated the growth of Limpopo by 6% during that period. Before the development plan was instituted, Limpopo had been one of the poorest provinces in South Africa, but through the leadership of Limpopo at the time and with help of data from Stats SA, the project focused extensively on the mineral resources like platinum to stir up its development as well as spell out what could be done to develop the province. It was on this basis that the protests in Limpopo were low. What the Members were seeing currently was an extension of the development plan. He doubted whether Limpopo would ever have escalated cases of protests like the rest of the provinces unless they did something else with regard to Limpopo’s development to make the people protest. The solution to resolving Limpopo’s problems was understanding the democracy of Limpopo and what their requirements were. During that time, it was the fastest growing province.

With regard to the boundary changes, he said that the point about this data was how it was presented. The data actually showed the occurrences at the different levels of society and this enabled citizens to argue their cases by stating that they were similar to certain wards and needed to know why the given wards were receiving preferential treatment compared to theirs. Political discussions had to be engaged with and political decisions taken on the issue of wards. Thus, the data from Stats SA was there to drive political decisions. The data was not meant to make decisions but help in the execution of the members’ political discourse, since data could not substitute for politics. 

On how they normalized the boundary changes, he said Stats SA had followed the boundary changes in the country and they had benchmarked the boundary changes to the latest change and then encompassed them with those that were there in 1996. They often moved towards the latest change to ascertain the changes that had occurred in the given spaces, but had not tracked the changes that had occurred since the boundary changes. However, they had participated in the discussions about the boundary changes in 1993 and had equally made a presentation on hotspots, based on the central place theory and the economic space in South Africa. In their presentation, they had indicated that some places like the North West belonged to the economy of Gauteng, and it would have been desirable to have them there. All the aforementioned examples indicated that similar surveys had been carried out before, but it was currently difficult in the noise of politics to make an intelligent survey.

The Chairperson thanked the Statistician General and the delegation from Stats SA for their informative presentation and encouraged them to interact with the Committee on a frequent basis because their work was useful for the future development of South Africa.

The meeting was adjourned.


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