Minister in the Presidency: Statistics South Africa Budget Speech


18 May 2017

Minister in the Presidency: Statistics South Africa Budget Speech, Mr Jeff Radebe,  gave his Budget Vote Speech on the 17 May 2017.


Madam Speaker,
Deputy Minister, Buti Manamela
Chairperson of the Statistics Council, Ben Mphahlele
Statistician General, Dr Pali Lehohla
Chairperson and Members of the Portfolio Committee
Honourable Members
Our Distinguished Guests in the Gallery
Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is a great honour, and indeed a singular one for me to once again, address this august house on a matter of national importance. I stand before you to present the Budget Vote of Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), an institution established under Act 6 of 1999, and reporting to the Minister in the Presidency.

South Africa seeks to be a developmental state as envisaged in the National Development Plan (NDP).  This injunction requires all institutions to be aligned, to be functional, intersecting appropriately and optimizing the use of our state resources to achieve a non-racial, non-sexist, democratic and prosperous society. Such a state should defeat the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality. 

It is a state that should therefore confront the fourth industrial revolution through youth skilling, tooling for-purpose and anticipating the future in a globe so ever difficult to predict. 

Without a planning system, we learn from Prophet Joel in the Locust Plague and the Day of the Lord that, and I quote, “What the cutting locust left, the swarming locust has eaten. What the swarming locust left, the hopping locust has eaten, and what the hopping locust has left, the destroying locust has eaten…..The land is like the garden of Eden before them, but after them a desolate wilderness and nothing escapes them.”

The imperative for planning as envisaged by Prophet Joel millennia ago, is illustrated in the South African Demographic Health Survey report that Stats SA released on Monday.  Herein the report presents us what could at face value be a conundrum of positives and negatives as regards to the health of the under-five. First, it attests to the positive impact of the interventions of improved immunization coverage and maternal care. 

The results of these are significantly realised in reduced under five and infant mortality rates, and increased life expectancy. In the second instance, however, it points to stunting. 

To address these complex phenomena, we need a planning institution that has staff who are competent across disciplines such as planning, econometrics, sociology, political economy, modelling, regional science and statistics to mention but a few critical skills.  It requires the deployment of technology platforms.

Above all, we need a system that is long-term and strategically led. The NDP shows us the end state but the planning and the plan has to acquire and deploy the aforementioned capabilities to realise the planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.     

Honourable members, Fellow South Africans

Yesterday, I presented the Budget Vote for the Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), which is charged with the function of planning. Today, I am presenting on the one aspect of resources required for planning, namely statistics, a matter of national interest.

Statistics are not only crucial in assessing our current status, but they form the basis of any future planning. For without indicators, without comparative data of any kind, it is nearly impossible to set yourself any growth targets or even gauge your own progress. Evidence that is scientific is what we need.

A key feature of such evidence is that it should be led and produced by a skilled and competent staff compliment. It has to have a dependable and credible system produced under conditions of independence.  Stats SA is Vote 12.  Stats SA is one such institution and it conducts business under conditions of independence.

It is this sense of autonomy that as a nation we should guard selfishly at all times and ensure that those charged with such a noble endeavour put as priority the needs of the nation first. Independence prevails under conditions of clear understanding of national imperatives, the failure of which, integrity gallops. Our icon, President Nelson Mandela once said:

“A bright future beckons. The onus is on us, through hard work, honesty and integrity, to reach for the stars.”

Stats SA continues to provide the nation with products that are critical to our sought after developmental state. The run of the mill churns 246 products on the state of our economy and 67 products on the social state of our country. Stats SA is at the forefront of technology revolution in data collection, deploying computer assisted personal interviews (CAPI) in the process.


My intervention here today is about the promise. The budget is the means by which we achieve the promise.  This is the subject of today initially but indeed continues through implementation in the months and seasons as they unfold.  Let us take a look at the highlights of the scorecard of the promise we made last year. In this regard we pledged the following and delivered on all of them successfully: 

1.    Have the Gross Domestic Product under one roof, delivered in June 2016

2.    Rebase the Consumer Price Index, delivered in February 2017

3.    Deliver the Community Survey using modern devices as pre-tested through the KwaZulu-Natal Citizen Satisfaction Survey, delivered in June 2016

4.    Deliver a new home for Stats SA, the ISIbalo House, delivered and occupied in September 2016

5.    Deliver on the South African Demographic and Health Survey, delivered in May 2017

6.    Host the very first United Nations World Data Forum, delivered in January 2017. The Forum concluded the Cape Town Global Action Plan (CTGAP): towards agenda 2030 and Stats SA the maiden host will roll out an ambitious plan focusing on capacity building as its contribution to one of the six elements of the CTGAP. 

7.    Deliver on planning tools and this was delivered continuously since November 2016

8.    Initiate legislative reform, and will be delivered in this financial year,

9.    We shall continue our continental and global commitments through the African Symposium for Statistical Development, the ASSD, which the statistician-general continues to chair since 2006 when it was inaugurated.

Stats SA continues to stake its claim in matters of international statistical development. The United Nations 2020 Round Population and Housing Census (RPHC) has already started in 2016 and will conclude in 2025. We have collaborated with our neighbour, Lesotho, in their Census 2016.  In Swaziland, we have provided 3500 handheld devices in running their census, which has just started.

From Kenya and Tanzania, we learnt a lot as we were part of a team that evaluated their statistics system through a peer review programme.  We are currently hosting the Somalis in statistical training for the next six months as they start the rebuilding programme of their country. In Namibia, we have worked together to put their quarterly labour force at par. A few years ago, Africa started a sterling programme on civil registration and vital statistics (CRVS).

At the end of financial year 2015/2016, 97 % of the R 2.5 billion budget of Stats SA was spent and the 3% rollover has been requested in order to handle modernized and continuous dissemination activities and payment of unitary fees for the new building.

Stats SA turned a new leaf in June 2016 when a seven decades practice of the production of GDP estimates in two separate institutions was ended. The Statistician-General and the Governor of the Reserve Bank performed a rare function on 8 June 2016, where the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) handed the responsibility of the compilation of the expenditure on Gross Domestic Product to Stats SA.

Stats SA is an organization at work. We are a government at work!

Stats SA continues to collaborate with universities to build a strong human resource capacity for emerging demands of statistical production. One of these programmes is a partnership for Masters Degrees, offered through the Centre for Regional and Urban Innovation Statistical Exploration (CRUISE) at the University of Stellenbosch. Since 2011, more than 60 staff members have completed Masters Degrees through this initiative.

Later this year, I will be launching the South Africa Regional Science Association to reinforce the discipline and practice of urban and regional science at CRUISE. 

Madam Speaker,

We exist in difficult times that require austerity practice with the public purse. Government as a whole is making efforts to fit their programmes within limited budgets. Stats SA is one of such departments that have taken this as a matter of course. 

The search for a secure financial position for Stats SA is not a nice to have, rather it is fundamental for purposes of getting the basic statistics right. Looking ahead therefore, our energies will be consumed by building and implementing these planning tools and modelling capability, which should enable the state to deliver in an integrated fashion.

Furthermore, we shall look at trade statistics. Trade statistics play a critical role in understanding a country’s inclination to strengthen its economy by increasing exports. For our country, preliminary review of our administrative data suggests that they are in need of repair.

The housing of GDP under one roof has with greater clarity pointed to these defects and paved the way as well for shedding light on prospective illicit financial flows.  It sets us on the right path and taking the first step in implementing the recommendation of the Illicit Financial Flows Commission.  Our major programme therefore is unravelling and addressing trade statistics.  

We shall focus on modernising statistical collection. We shall also remove the pain from the customer by easing the use of statistical evidence. This will be by the implementation of technology and getting geography to work for South Africa.  Through the production of spatial statistics the DPME’s new responsibility for SPLUMA (The Spatial Planning and Land Use Management Act) will be greatly assisted. 

We shall reform our system by delivering a revamped and enabling statistical law.  We shall advance and deepen our own knowledge on the demographic dividend and contribute to global knowledge systems.  To this end we shall give momentum to this process by hosting the 28th International Union for the Scientific Study of Population (IUSSP) to be held in Cape Town in October this year. 

All these priority programmes and projects will happen as we did in the past, in parallel with the run of the mill of 246 economic statistics and the 67 population and social statistics.   To deliver on all these imperatives, the budget allocation is as follows:

Of the current 2016/2017 financial year budget of R2.1 billion, R229 million is for economic statistics, R128 million to population and social statistics, methodology and research is allocated R67 million, statistical support and informatics has R258 million, statistical collection and outreach is allocated R585 million, survey operations is R191 million and finally administration which pays for office accommodation, transport, training and other central services and includes and the national statistics system coordination is allocated R 688 million.

We need to stand guard at Stats SA and protect it from decline. Jim Collins, in his book “How the Mighty Fall describes how success might cover up the fact that an institution is on a path to decline.  He identifies four principles that can save organisations from decline, and these are: disciplined people who have the professional will to put the organization first, disciplined thoughts of those who have the commitment to stay the course and confront reality regardless of difficulties, disciplined action of those who have the freedom to exercise power comes with great responsibilities as well as building greatness to last by the ability to stay the course while they are adapting to the changing world. 

This house has given me the opportunity to give evidence on the previous promise, it has permitted me to project on the new promise. The evidence of delivery by Stats SA is indisputable. The Auditor General has delivered evidence of no less than three successive clean audits in this regard. 

However, the risks on financing are threatening and in this regard we have a challenge to confront and resolve in order to realize the injunction by Madiba on planning.  Indeed significant progress is possible and is within our reach as we gain better handle on planning through the planning tools.  We can therefore have the capacity to allow the intervention of fate on our own terms.   

Instead of the Locust Plague and the Day of the Lord in Prophet Joel, ours should be different and attest to our dreams as Prophet Joel said “young men shall see visions and old men shall dream dreams.” We should reimagine, dream and visualize a different but better habitat as the fourth industrial revolution closes on the old world, and opens the door on the new world. 

Our youth should be empowered for this new world. Therefore let our sons and daughters dream dreams. Today, more than ever before, the continued search for better technology to enhance statistical development remains the challenge for any national statistics agency. Let us preserve and encourage it to deliver more and better.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Chairperson of the Statistics Council, Ben Mphahlele, as well as the entire South African Statistics Council for the sterling work they continue doing in safeguarding the interests of official statistics. Furthermore, I wish to extend a word of gratitude to the Statistician-General, Dr Pali Lehohla, and the Stats SA team for ensuring that our national statistics agency churns out its products timeously and for so doing without fail.

Thank you.


18 May 2017

Honourable Speaker
Minister in the Presidency for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, as well as Youth Development and Administration, Mr Jeff Radebe
Ministers and Deputy Ministers
Honourable members
Statistician General, Mr Pali Lehohla
Ladies and gentlemen

The practice of official statistics in South Africa is synonymous to our search for destiny as a nation. When our country emerged from the doldrums of colonialism and apartheid, the need to build a non-racial, non-sexist democratic society was more urgent than ever.

Many institutions were called to place hands on deck to assist us as a nation to navigate the state of transition into a fully functioning state. Stats SA is one of those that were called up to lend a hand in the process of building our new nation. Stats SA was one of those institutions that accepted the responsibility for nation-building — albeit the limited time at hand — and went on to conduct the first ever census in the democratic order.

Census ’96 stands on the shoulders of our emergence into democracy, a chapter that was ushered in in 1994.

There are times when a nation has to take tough choices to define its identity and search for its destiny to be able to survive.
The late Egyptian leader, President Anwar el-Sadat, in his autobiography In Search of Identity, writes:
“Looking into the night sky, I decided that despite everything, now it was the time for my nation to reach a new destiny… I would have to move quickly to take proper advantage of the many favourable factors that were coalescing.”

Destiny and the freedom are like Siamese twins. They are co-joined all the time. As South Africans, we have chosen the kind of destiny that we so yearned to have. While we have attained some form of a destiny, we have not completed the race we are running when the majority of our people still have not achieved a demographic dividend.

Statistical data continue to show that while Blacks in general, and Africans in particular, have made sufficient progress in terms of absolute numbers as regards higher education attainment, the proportions remain a concern.
It's even more concerning when we realize as a nation that Africans and Coloured race groups are lagging behind both educationally and socio-economically. The youth are even more affected than the adult population.

The triple scourge of unemployment, poverty, and inequality continue to harass the majority of our people. Blacks, women and youth face a daunting task of breaking the barriers that constrain them to attain their full potential. Statistics suggest that the minority who are living it off comfortably well cannot even afford to carry the weight and dependency of those who are still caught up within the poverty trap. Something has to be done and has to be done pretty soon.

President Jacob Zuma, on the occasion of the celebration of Freedom Day, on 27th April 2017 in uMhlabuyalingana, reminds us when he said:

“It has been a long road since that watershed general election in 1994 that marked the collapse of racist white rule. The defeat of apartheid colonialism by the South African people was one of the greatest achievements of humankind. As we celebrate the progress made in the past 23 years, we also admit that there is further work to be done… We have achieved political freedom but economic freedom still remains largely elusive. It is for this reason that we speak about radical economic transformation… The majority of black people are still economically disempowered and are dissatisfied with the economic gains from liberation. The level of inequality remains high.”

Destiny cannot mean anything when levels of unemployment, poverty and inequality affect the majority of in our society. This is especially so when the majority were structurally excluded for a long time from any form of meaningful participation on matters than concern them.
We should allow empirical evidence to guide us where we are making gains and where challenges remain. We pride ourselves that Stats SA, as our national statistics agency, continues to have the independence to exercise its professional apparatus to illuminate issues as they are in our society. We all cannot run away from bare facts that are reputable and can stand the test of time.

Equally we cannot look at the official statistics and do nothing, especially in areas where the numbers point out that there are problems. It is for such reasons that we have placed our national statistics agency appropriately side-by-side with the planning function. Planning, monitoring and evaluation need to be oiled with credible data at all times. Stats SA has today come up with a planning framework and inherent planning tools that will take national planning to no parallel.

Stats SA will need to be properly funded to discharge of its duties and responsibilities. Independence is a very interesting issue, for, it remains a lot stronger when it is not curtailed in whatever form. Resource constraint can indirectly compromise the integrity of any independent agency.

For an agency like Stats SA, it would be detrimental when they cannot be fully funded. It would imply that the nation would receive empirical evidence that is limping. A nation that has questionable official figures is doomed to fail. Our elevated planning function as well as the pressing space for radical socio-economic transformation require a well standing statistical agency.

Christopher Scott, in his paper Measuring Up to the Measurement Problem, argues that policy formulation and decision-making that does not follow the culture of empirical evidence is at the mercy of Power and influence of sectional interests, arbitrariness and anecdotes where relatively minor issues− sometimes not even affecting the majority of the people − may achieve unwarranted prominence in the policymaking process.

In our case as a country, we have witnessed a manner in which the National Development Plan (NDP) has gained the acceptance of the entire society. Equally, the official statistics that should support the NDP at all times always gain acceptance across the nation.

This rare opportunity should not be taken for granted, instead it should be utilised to the fullest advantage to benefit our country. We have seen in other country where national plans and their supporting statistics have been the contention for dispute, sometimes to an extent where the nation degenerates into a state of fragility. The experiences of Greece and Argentina are still fresh in our minds. We have a responsibility as a nation to safeguard the interests of our official statistics.

Statistics help us to always shape policy options and to know what assumptions we are making when we embark on particular programs. We have also seen Stats SA’s venture into strengthening the spatial mapping of its data in such a manner that assist users not to be bombarded by large volumes of data to which they cannot geographically relate.

Our Government is serious about providing services to our nation. One of the benefits we derive from official statistics is to randomize the phase-in of policy implementation which in turn give hope to our people that their chance will come the next time around.  That way, we will attain a progressive realisation of the notion of a better life for all.


According to Career24, Statistical Analysis and Data Mining ranks the top most demanded skill in South Africa while it ranks second in the world.
Mathematics, science and technology remain a big challenge for the majority of our young people. These challenges are especially so for those in the rural areas where our youth bear the brunt of an apartheid they have never directly witnessed, yet they live through its legacy everyday of their lives.

Thus, their reach for these scarce skills of Statistical Analysis and Data Mining will continue to be a false hope. We all know that colonialism and apartheid have caused so much harm that our country. Both these edifices belong nowhere else than to the dustbin of a history to forget, never to be praised in whatever form.

It irks me greatly to realize that some among our society, including those who masquerade as leaders of our people still have a nostalgic binge for the erstwhile colonial and apartheid tendencies. We should not see their call to return to our difficult past and their praise for that past as an accident.
It is representative of the way they socialize and the manner in which their ideological inclination gravitates.

However, we are not going to allow ourselves to be diverted from defending our hard earned democracy and abandon it just like that. When we finally hand it over, we will hand it to the responsible future generations of our nation. Our common search for identity and destiny cannot be complete until we have taken good care of our young people, for, the future rests with them.

I thank you.


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