ANALYSIS: Truth-checking claims about service supply in South Africa since 1994
With South African municipal elections set to happen in 2021, we will anticipate quite a lot of service supply comparisons. They might not all add up.
Did you turn on a light-weight at present? Pour your self a glass of water? Flush the bathroom? Entry to electrical energy, water and sanitation are sometimes key measures when assessing progress in a rustic.
In South Africa there’s a frequent yr of reference: 1994. It marked the nation’s first democratic election. Politicians have a behavior of measuring progress – or lack thereof – from this date.
Through the years, Africa Test has fact-checked quite a few claims about entry to providers between 1994 and the current day. Not too long ago an Africa Test reader requested us to fact-check the declare that fewer individuals in South Africa have entry to “clear water” in 2020 than in 1994.
To test this you want entry to dependable information. However it’s tougher to return by than you may suppose.
Information from early Nineties restricted in quantity and use
“Earlier than 1994, most surveys, together with the census, didn’t embrace Africans in full and didn’t weight samples for them appropriately,” Neva Makgetla, senior economist on the Commerce and Industrial Coverage Methods analysis institute in Pretoria, advised Africa Test.
Surveys additionally excluded the so-called unbiased homelands – areas designated for specific ethnic teams – the place a big share of the African inhabitants lived. And due to the commerce and monetary sanctions imposed by different nations in response to apartheid, financial information was unreliable, Makgetla mentioned. With out a full census, non-public surveys additionally confronted points.
“It took some time earlier than Statistics South Africa might develop methods to completely rely the African inhabitants and develop higher weights for surveys,” Makgetla mentioned. She added that many questions requested in these surveys have been poorly designed.
“Because of this, it’s just about unimaginable to check demographic and socio-economic information from 1994 with any later findings.”
Entry to water in 1994 vs 2018
Let’s return to the reader request to fact-check the declare that the quantity of people that had entry to scrub water was decrease in 2020 than in 1994. It appeared straight-forward sufficient. We simply wanted to search out the related figures for 1994 and 2018, the most recent yr for which information is out there.
The latest figures are simple to search out. In accordance with Statistics South Africa’s, or Stats SA’s, 2018 common family survey, 89% of households had entry to piped or faucet water. This included entry of their dwellings, on web site or off web site.
For comparability you may attain for Stats SA’s October 1995 Family Survey, which discovered that 78.5% of households had entry to “clear water”. However Niël Roux, the company’s supervisor of service supply statistics, has beforehand defined that the survey was “hamstrung by a collection of methodological and sensible points”. The weighting problem, whereas much less extreme within the 1996 census, was an enormous downside with the October Family Survey. This makes it tough to check its outcomes with newer statistics, Makgetla mentioned.
A smaller nationally consultant survey, carried out by the Southern Africa Labour Improvement Analysis Unit (SALDRU) in late 1993 and early 1994, discovered that 76.4% of households had entry to piped water. This referred to municipal water and its high quality would fluctuate with location, Lynn Woolfrey, supervisor of the DataFirst analysis unit on the College of Cape City, advised Africa Test.
The out there information makes it tough to attract any clear conclusions about adjustments in entry to scrub or piped water since 1994. The state of affairs is simply barely clearer on the subject of electrical energy.
Understating entry in 1994
In 2019, president Cyril Ramaphosa claimed that solely 36% of the inhabitants had entry to electrical energy in 1994 and that the determine had since grown to 80%. He was incorrect.
Entry to electrical energy is measured in a variety of other ways. It might contain counting what number of homes are linked to the grid. However it might, and some have argued that it ought to, additionally embrace what number of households are capable of afford electrical energy and what number of are in a position to make use of the complete vary of electrical energy providers, for instance lighting, cooking and heating.
In accordance with Stats SA, their “earliest credible information” on electrical energy was from the 1996 census, given the issues with the company’s October 1995 survey highlighted above.
The census discovered that in 1996 58% of households used electrical energy for lighting. Nearly 48% used electrical energy for cooking whereas 46.5% used it for heating. The 1993 survey by SALDRU estimated that 54% of households had entry to electrical energy from the grid.
Each information units point out entry to electrical energy in 1994 sat at above 50%. By understating entry in 1994, Ramaphosa overstated the federal government’s progress in rising entry to electrical energy.
Accuracy in public debate
With South African municipal elections set to happen in 2021, we will anticipate extra of those sorts of comparisons. When campaigning, politicians want to pay attention to the out there information sources and their limitations.
We’ve put collectively this factsheet, detailing every thing we do (and don’t) find out about service supply in 1994, to make sure as clear an image as potential. Additionally it is a useful resource for voters who want to fact-check election claims.
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