ANALYSIS: Did Zuma keep his word? Tracking past Sona promises

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is due to give his 2016 State of the Nation address at the opening of Parliament this week. Africa Check reviewed his previous addresses to assess if he kept promises made then.

Researched by Kate Wilkinson

South Africa's third democratically elected president took office in 2009. President Jacob Zuma has since delivered eight State of the Nation Addresses (Sonas). Africa Check went through his speeches and selected a promise from each year to check whether it has been achieved.

Our requirements were that the promise had to be checkable, meaning that we needed to be able to locate publicly available information against which to verify it and that the promises covered the spectrum of issues concerning South Africans.

We'll be publishing a promise a day until Thursday 11 February so check back daily.


2015: "…government through the department of water and sanitation will train 15,000 artisans or plumbers who will fix leaking taps in their local communities."

Verdict: In progress

Zuma made this commitment on 12 February 2015.

In August the Department of Water and Sanitation launched their 'War on Leaks' project.

Phase 1, to be completed in the 2015/16 financial year, will train 3,000 artisans, plumbers and water agents. (A water agent educates the public on how to use water wisely and manage water resources.)

An additional 5,000 people will begin training in the 2016/17 financial year (phase 2) and 7,000 will begin training in 2017/18 (phase 3).

Spokesman for the department, Mlimandlela Ndamase, told Africa Check that 2,897 people were receiving training as of 25 January this year. This included 1,573 artisans, 243 plumbers and 1,081 water agents.

However, the artisans and plumbers need 3 years of training before they will be able to start working, while the water agents can begin work after 10 months of training.


2010: "We are implementing plans to increase the number of policemen and women by 10% over the next three years."

Verdict: Not achieved

Zuma's commitment was made on 11 February 2010, during the 2009/10 financial year.

The South African Police Service (SAPS) reported that they employed 190,199 people at the end of 2009/10.

Of these, 151,164 were police officials and 39,035 were Public Service Act employees (who perform support functions such as personnel administration, procurement, financial administration, typing and cleaning).

A 10% increase would have seen the number of police officials increase to 166,280.

But by 2012/13, their numbers only stood at 155,531 - an increase of just 2.9%. The latest data from 2014/15 showed that the number of police officials has decreased by 0.1% since Zuma made the commitment.

However, even if Zuma had kept his promise to increase police numbers by 10% it may not have helped to tackle South Africa's crime problem.

Postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Cape Town's criminology department, Dr Andrew Faull, told Africa Check that more police officials don't always result in better policing and less crime.

"Police officials need to be deployed and managed properly along with targeted interventions and programmes. As importantly, they should be seen as legitimate authorities enforcing legitimate laws fairly and equitably," said Faull.

"Conversely, illegitimate police practices can promote crime and disorder. In this case, the fewer police officials there are, the better."


2009: "The second phase of the [Expanded Public Works Programme] aims to create about four million job opportunities by 2014."

Verdict: Achieved

Zuma made this commitment in his first state of the nation address on 3 June 2009.

By March 2014, the second phase of the Expanded Public Works Programme had created 4,071,292 work opportunities figures from the department of public works show.

It is important to remember though that work opportunities are not permanent jobs and in most cases only last a few months.

The Department of Public Works notes that "the same individual can be employed on different projects and each period of employment will be counted as a work opportunity". So while 4,071,292 work opportunities were created, this does not mean that the same number of people benefited from the programme.

And though Zuma promised "four million job opportunities by 2014", the Expanded Public Works Programme itself aimed higher - to create 4.5 million work opportunities - and this was not achieved.


2014: "We… will continue to eradicate mud schools and other inappropriate structures."

Verdict: In progress

Zuma made this commitment on 17 June 2014.

South Africa's Department of Basic Education is replacing mud schools and other inappropriate structures under the Accelerated Schools Infrastructure Delivery Initiative (ASIDI).

The ASIDI programme, which was launched by the department in 2011, initially identified 496 schools that were considered "inappropriate structures". Of those schools, 50 were meant to be replaced in 2011/12, 100 in 2012/13 and the last 346 in 2013/14.

However, the programme has fallen far behind its target.

Data sent to Africa Check by the spokesman for the Department of Basic Education, Elijah Mhlanga, revealed that the number of schools to be rebuilt has increased to 510. The majority of them are located in the Eastern Cape.

By 31 December last year only a quarter (134 schools) had been rebuilt.


2011: "Given our emphasis on women's health, we will broaden the scope of reproductive health rights and provide services related to… sanitary towels for the indigent."

Verdict: Not achieved

Zuma made this commitment on 10 February 2011.

A few days later, the Department of Women, Children and People with Disabilities (now the Department of Women) announced that it would launch the "Sanitary Dignity Campaign" to hand out sanitary towels to women and girls who could not afford them.

Community journalism website GroundUp followed up on Zuma's promise in 2014 and 2015 but could find no evidence of the programme having been launched.

Media liaison officer at the Department of Women, Charlotte Lobe, directed questions to the Department of Social Development.

The department's media liaison officer, Jaconia Kobue, told Africa Check that they did not have a policy or programme in place to provide sanitary towels to women and girls.

"The department will get sanitary towel donations from companies and give them out every now and then," Kobue said. However, they did not monitor how many sanitary towels had been donated or how many women and girls had received them.

The Department of Basic Education told Africa Check that it had entered into partnerships to "provide material support to learners, including sanitary ware to girls in some instances". But they could not say how many school girls had received sanitary towels as part of this.

This article appeared on, a non-partisan organisation which promotes accuracy in public debate and the media. Follow them on Twitter: @AfricaCheck