Statistics Amendment Bill: Stats SA briefing; with Deputy Minister

NCOP Health and Social Services

12 March 2024
Chairperson: Mr E Njadu (ANC, Western Cape)
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Meeting Summary


The Select Committee on Health and Social Services convened virtually for an initial briefing on the Statistics Amendment Bill [B31B-2023], Sec 75.

The Deputy Minister provided an overview of the roles outlined in the Stats Act 6 of 1999. The legislative reforms initiated by Stats SA in 2014 aimed to strengthen coordination and collaboration among data producers.

The Statistician-General then led the presentation, highlighting the extensive consultation process, socioeconomic impact assessments, and the Bill's journey through Parliament.

The main issue emphasised to the Committee was the need to amend the data collection methods, which was necessary to address limitations faced by Stats SA officials in carrying out their duties –section 15. Stats SA currently faces challenges accessing private dwellings, so the amendment seeks to broaden access balanced with the right to privacy, which requires warrants or consent before accessing private buildings or business premises.

The Committee was informed of the way forward in processing the Bill. The Committee endeavoured to limit itself to amending clause 15, finalising the Bill by the end of April 2024.  

Meeting report

The Chairperson initiated the meeting by requesting a roll call. No official apologies were made. He also acknowledged the presence of the Deputy Minister. He officially declared the meeting open without delay. He anticipated a brief meeting and outlined the agenda, with the Department slated to present on the Stats SA Amendment Bill and current challenges, followed by discussions on a path forward.

Deputy Minister’s Overview

Mr Kenneth Morolong, Deputy Minister in the Presidency, provided an overview of the roles of key players in the current configuration outlined in the Stats Act 6 of 1999. He highlighted that the Minister approves the work programme of Stats SA upon advice from the Statistician-General and the Statistics Council. The Minister also oversees the performance of the Statistician-General and appoints the Statistics Council. The Statistician-General, in turn, executes statistical exercises, ensures independence, and promotes different statistical methods and best practices.

Regarding legislative reforms, Deputy Minister Morolong noted that Stats SA initiated the process as far back as 2014, with the Statistics Amendment Bill seeking to strengthen coordination in the country. This includes provisions for the development of the National Statistics system and the national strategy for statistical development, as well as enhancing collaboration among data producers and users. Additionally, the Bill aims to ensure compliance with the South African Statistical Quality Assessment Framework and streamline data collection processes.

Deputy Minister Morolong acknowledged that certain amendments, particularly regarding data collection methods, might spark contentious debates, but emphasised the necessity of addressing limitations faced by Stats SA officials in carrying out their duties. The Bill also proposes the establishment of statistic units by organs of state to further bolster statistical capabilities.

Deputy Minister Morolong concluded by expressing hope for the full implementation of the national statistics system, promoting the production and use of high-quality statistics. He then handed over to the Statistician-General to lead the presentation, apologising on behalf of the Minister, who was unable to join the meeting due to a flight mix-up but hoped she would join later.

The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister for his valuable input, which was greatly appreciated. He also acknowledged the importance of the processes between the National Assembly (NA) and the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) regarding the amendment of section 15, which the Committee would consider after the presentation. The Chairperson then handed over to the Statistician-General, thanking and welcoming him to proceed.

Presentation on the Statistics Amendment Bill [B31B-2023]

Mr Risenga Maluleke, Statistician-General, thanked the Deputy Minister for guiding the process of the Statistics Amendment Bill and for his overall support. Mr Maluleke then proceeded to discuss various aspects of the Amendment Bill, beginning with the extensive consultation process that took place at national, provincial, and local levels. These consultations addressed comparisons with other domestic laws, issues of data privacy and access, and compliance with international statistical standards.

He highlighted study tours to observe the implementation of statistics laws in other countries and the completion of socioeconomic impact assessments. Mr Maluleke emphasised the lengthy process of drafting the statistics regulations, which began in 2010, and the role of the South African Statistics Council in advising both the Minister and the Statistician-General.

The review of the Act began in 2014, with significant progress made in 2019. Despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bill was submitted to Parliament in 2020, with debates and input from the Portfolio Committee resulting in amendments to address key issues, such as access to land and premises for statistical purposes.

Mr Maluleke underscored that the Amendment Act aims to strengthen coordination, enhance collaboration among data producers and users, and ensure compliance with statistical quality assessment frameworks. It also seeks to empower the Minister to make regulations regarding statistics.

He reassured Members that the revised Act retains the current configuration of key players, including the Minister, Statistics Council, and Statistician-General. The Bill was debated in the National Assembly and is now under discussion in the National Council of Provinces.

Mr Maluleke concluded with a personal anecdote about communication barriers emphasising the importance of providing access to information, including statistics, for all sections of society.

(see attached for full presentation)

Legal Advisor Input

The Chairperson expressed sincere gratitude for the presentation, emphasising its uplifting conclusion. He thanked the Statistician-General for his concise delivery.

The Chairperson underscored the importance of addressing concerns raised by both the Deputy Minister and those highlighted in the presentation, particularly regarding the process and the specific issue of entering premises. He suggested seeking background information, potentially from legal advisors, to clarify what transpired and determine the appropriate way forward.

Ms Phumelele Ngema, Parliamentary Legal Adviser, expressed her preference for the Statistician-General to provide the Committee with background information first. She highlighted the challenges and difficulties faced by the Statistician-General, particularly regarding accessing private dwellings, which has been a contentious issue throughout the Portfolio Committee processes.

Ms Ngema noted that Section 15 of the existing Act previously excluded access to private dwellings for observations or investigations. However, the proposed amendment seeks to broaden access. She emphasised that despite this broader access, the right to privacy is protected by the existing Act, which requires, warrants or consent before accessing private buildings or business premises.

Ms Ngema suggested that the Statistician-General provide more context on the Chairperson's question before she delves into the provisions and drafting matters of the current Bill under consideration by the Committee.

Mr Maluleke thanked the Chairperson for the opportunity to speak and stressed that the primary concern is not to violate individuals' privacy. He provided examples to illustrate the challenges faced when accessing private premises, particularly in areas like Soweto or farming communities.

In Soweto, for instance, a house stands on a piece of land, and while drones or aeroplanes may capture aerial maps, they might miss smaller structures like back rooms or adjacent structures. Data collection could overlook significant portions of the population if access to the premises is denied, leading to incomplete reporting.

In farming communities, where farms can span thousands of hectares, relying solely on bookkeepers for data collection overlooks households and structures nearer to the main homestead. The Statistician-General's responsibility extends to all individuals within South Africa's borders, including undocumented migrants and those in informal settlements.

Protocols are in place to address concerns about privacy and safety. For gated communities, arrangements are made through estate managers. Traditional leaders or community authorities are informed of data collection activities in neighbourhoods with less formal structures. Field workers are often recruited locally and are familiar with the communities they serve.

In instances where crime is a concern, cooperation with local authorities, such as police stations or neighbourhood watch groups, ensures the safety of field workers and respondents alike. Mr Maluleke emphasised the importance of protecting both field workers and respondents from potential risks during data collection activities.

The Chairperson thanked Mr Maluleke for providing comprehensive background information on the process. He acknowledged that it was a lot of information for the Committee to digest and understand. He proposed first giving the floor to the legal adviser to provide further clarification before allowing Members to contribute.

Ms Ngema intended to elaborate on the issues raised by the Statistician-General (SG) and provide clarity to the Members regarding the proposed amendment.

She highlighted the exclusion of private dwellings from the Principal Act, which posed challenges for statistical purposes. The SG had emphasised the importance of accessing all relevant premises to ensure accurate data collection, particularly regarding individuals residing in areas such as back rooms or farms.

The proposed amendment aimed to address this exclusion by allowing access to any land or premises, with certain exceptions. However, Ms Ngema pointed out that the wording of the amendment required clarification to ensure compliance with constitutional rights to privacy.

She explained that the amendment should preserve the requirement for a warrant or consent before accessing private dwellings to safeguard individuals' privacy rights. This correction would align the proposed amendment with constitutional principles while still achieving the intended purpose of the amendment.

Ms Ngema emphasised the need for proper drafting and clarity in legislative processes to avoid unintended consequences. She assured the Committee that the proposed correction would maintain the integrity of the Act while addressing concerns raised by the SG.

Ms Ngema continued by drawing attention to a crucial aspect of the proposed amendment. She explained that the wording of the amendment, specifically the phrasing "Section 15 of the Principal Act is hereby amended by the substitution in subsection one of the following," would inadvertently remove the provisions regarding warrants and consent.

This unintended consequence could jeopardise the Bill's compliance with constitutional rights to privacy and the limitation clause. To address this issue, Ms Ngema proposed bringing it to the attention of the Select Committee for correction.

She outlined the proposed correction process, which would involve amending the Bill to ensure that the provisions regarding warrants and consent are retained while still achieving the intended purpose of the amendment.

Ms Ngema emphasised the importance of teamwork in identifying and correcting such issues before the final enactment of the Bill. She reiterated the need for clarity in drafting to avoid confusion and ensure that the Bill aligns with constitutional principles.

Ms Ngema expressed her hope that her explanation made sense to the Committee and thanked them for considering her input. She underscored the importance of addressing any concerns to allay fears among the public and Members regarding constitutional rights and their limitations.

The Chairperson thanked the clarification by Ms Ngema, stating that it offered more clarity on the matter at hand. Without delay, the Chairperson invited Members to make their input now that they had both the background information and the content of the discussion.


Mr M Bara (DA, Gauteng) thanked the Chairperson and welcomed the presentation. He then sought clarity on two points. Firstly, he inquired about the entities within the National Statistics system that would need to enter into partnership agreements with the Statistician-General, seeking clarification on which specific entities were intended for partnership.

Secondly, he raised a question regarding the timeframe within which Statistics South Africa operates, noting that the Bill proposed extending it from five to ten years. Mr Bara expressed concern about whether this extension would lead to doubling the workload within the extended timeframe, considering that population and other state-related factors can change rapidly.

He sought clarification on the rationale behind extending the operational timeframe to ten years and whether it would result in a heavier workload.


Ms Yandiswa Mpetsheni, Acting Deputy Director-General: Population and Social Statistics, Stats SA, explained that the entities they are looking to partner with include producers of statistics in the private sector, as they use data from the private sector for their publications. Further, they aim to collaborate with bridging sources of statistics and civil society organisations, as they also have data that Stats SA needs. She mentioned that any other data producer could also be considered for partnership in this journey.

Mr Maluleke proceeded to highlight the significance of partnerships, citing the Sustainable Development Goals report as an example. He emphasised the importance of collaborating with other data producers to ensure the quality of data used in reports like the SDG report, using the South African Statistical quality assessment frame for validation.

Further, Mr Maluleke discussed the benefits of partnerships in strengthening the entire statistical system, beyond the scope of Stats SA's work. He mentioned that such collaborations would bolster the collection efforts of various entities and enhance their willingness to cooperate with Stats SA.

Regarding census operations, Mr Maluleke acknowledged that taking a longer time before conducting a census could lead to more comprehensive data collection. However, he also highlighted the importance of other products, such as the Community Survey, to provide interim information to the nation. For example, the Community Survey conducted between 2011 and 2022 covered 1.5 million households, complementing census data.

Regarding financial considerations, Mr Maluleke noted that conducting a census requires significant resources. The Census 2021, which was delayed to 2022 due to COVID-19, cost nearly R4 Billion, exceeding the initial budget of R3 Billion. He also mentioned the historical cost of technological advancements, using the example of cellphone prices to illustrate that initial investments in technology can be expensive.

Mr Maluleke concluded by advocating for a balanced approach, suggesting complementing census operations with other surveys within a five-year timeframe while still planning for a census every ten years. He emphasised the importance of aligning with international standards, such as conducting censuses every ten years in line with United Nations guidelines.

Ms Ngema emphasised that the definition of "entity within NSS" in Clause 1 of the Bill encompasses both organs of state and any other organisation, non-profit, or business involved in producing, using, or collecting statistics. She clarified that this definition was carefully considered to ensure clarity and inclusivity within the Bill. Therefore, the concerns raised regarding which entities would be included as partners were addressed through this definition. Ms Ngema highlighted the importance of this clarification for Members' understanding and reassured Members that it aligns with the Bill's objectives and eventual enactment into law.

The Chairperson thanked the SG and the legal adviser for the clarification provided. He emphasised the importance of correcting the issue highlighted to prevent any further implications or challenges for the work of the SG. In simple terms, the correction aims to ensure that the SG can enter premises for necessary purposes without obstacles. The Select Committee needs to consider this matter to facilitate the SG's work effectively in the future.

Mr E Nchabeleng (ANC, Limpopo) expressed his support for the report presented by the Department, particularly the explanations provided by the statistician general regarding the omissions and how they came about. He said the information provided was sufficient to support the report and its further processing.

Ms E Nkosi (ANC, Mpumalanga) expressed her gratitude to the Chairperson, her colleagues, and the Department for covering all the points in Clause 15. She emphasised the importance of amending the access to premises provision and returning it to Clause A for concurrence and further examination by the Select Committee. Ms Nkosi sought clarification from the legal advisor or the Department regarding the timeline for passing the Bill, as it is crucial to ensure that the amendments are made within the required timeframe. She emphasised the need to facilitate the work of statisticians and fieldworkers by allowing easy access to premises.

The Chairperson thanked the Statistician-General for the presentation and for highlighting the challenges that arose during the process from the NA to the NCOP. He emphasised the importance of making corrections to the Bill and completing the process by sending it back to the NA for concurrence. He said the Committee Secretariat would provide assistance in fast-tracking the process to ensure compliance with the scheduled program and to finalise it before the election. The Chairperson then requested an update from the Secretariat on the progress of the process.

Way forward

The Committee Secretariat provided an update on the process. She explained that an advertisement calling for written submissions on the Bill would be released, with the dates set between 12 March 2024 and 15 April 2024. The advertisement would run on all parliamentary social media platforms, and the Committee would receive written submissions during this period. After receiving the submissions, the Committee would review them to assess any input from individuals.

The Committee would then meet to deliberate on the submissions, as well as the proposed amendments by the legal advisor and Stats South Africa, based on their presentation. As the Bill falls under section 75, the Committee would deliberate on it further, leading to its finalisation by the end of April 2024, ensuring compliance with the specified timeframes.

Closing remarks

The Chairperson outlined the next steps. He emphasised that the NCOP's engagement would specifically focus on the correction highlighted during the presentation and would not restart the entire process. He confirmed that the advertisement for submissions would reflect this specificity.

Regarding the programme of the National Assembly (NA), he mentioned receiving confirmation that the Bill could be accommodated by May 2024. The Chairperson thanked the Deputy Minister, the SG, and the Legal Adviser for assistance.

 The meeting was adjourned


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