[FACT CHECK] Facts or alternative facts? Sona 2017 checked

Amidst unprecedented security measures, South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma delivered his tenth State of the Nation Address on 9 February 2017. We fact-checked his speech.

ENERGY

CLAIM: To date, nearly 7 million households have been connected to the grid and now have the electricity.

VERDICT: Correct

South Africa’s development indicators showed that 6,340,321 households had been connected to the grid as of 2013/14. A further 233,455 were connected in 2014/15 and 231,012 were connected in 2015/16. Figures for 2016/17 have yet to be released.

Zuma’s claim is correct based on these figures. They show that a total of 6,804,788 households – nearly 7 million – were connected as of 31 March 2016.

As of 2016, 90.3% of South African households had access to electricity for lighting.

EDUCATION

CLAIM: Among the participating countries [in the Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study] South Africa has shown the largest improvement of 87 points in mathematics and 90 points in science.

VERDICT: Correct

The Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMSS) is conducted every 4 years and provides participating countries with the means to compare pupil performance in maths and science.

Grade 4 and Grade 8 pupils are tested in most of the countries that take part in the study. However, in South Africa Grade 5 and 9 pupils are tested.

The 2015 study found that South Africa’s Grade 9 pupils recorded the “biggest positive change”. There was an improvement of 90 points in science and 87 points in mathematics.

The report goes on to note that “South Africa started with very low performance scores in 2003 and this upward shift translates to an overall performance improvement by approximately two grade levels between 2003 and 2015”.

While South African Grade 9 pupils did record a large improvement, in comparison to other countries they fared badly. Out of the 39 countries assessed, South Africa’s Grade 9 students placed 38th for mathematics performance and 39th for science performance.

ECONOMY

CLAIM: We anticipate an economic growth rate of 1.3% in 2017, following an estimated 0.5% in 2016.”

VERDICT: Unproven.

The Commission for Employment Equity compiles an annual report on employment equity for the Department of Labour.

The data in the report is submitted once a year by designated employers, which include employers who employ 50 or more employees, employers who employ fewer than 50 employees but have a certain annual turnover, as well as municipalities, all levels of government, state-owned companies and educational institutions.

The 2015/16 annual report showed that 68.9% of top management workforce was white, 14.3% was black, 8.6% was Indian, 4.7% was coloured and 3.5% was foreign.

The breakdown of management levels by population group:

INCOME

CLAIM: White households earn at least 5 times more than black households, according to Statistics South Africa.

VERDICT: Mostly correct.

Statistics South Africa’s 2014/15 Living Conditions of Households Survey reported that black African households had an average income of R92,983 per year. In comparison, white households had an average income R444,446 per year.

Based on these figures, white households’ income is on average 4.8 times more than black households.

WATER

CLAIM: …about 10,000 unemployed youth are being trained as plumbers, artisans and water agents.

VERDICT: Unproven.

In his 2015 State of the Nation Address, Zuma announced that 15,000 artisans, plumbers and water agents would be trained as part of the War on Leaks initiative.

The department’s 2015/2016 annual report noted that 3,000 artisans started training last year, while an additional 7,000 trainees were to join their ranks in August.

The department’s spokesman Sputnik Ratau was unable to confirm to Africa Check how many young people started training in August 2016. (Note: We will update this report when Ratau supplies the figures for the second intake.)

However, he said the programme is still on-going and that a third intake of trainees would take place this year.

HOUSING

CLAIM: Government is actively involved in the property sector, having provided more than 4 million houses since 1994.

VERDICT: Incorrect.

Data from the Department of Human Settlements shows that 2,835,275 houses were built by government between 1994/95 and 2013/14. A further 95,210 were built in 2014/15 and 100,339 were built in 2015/16. This brings the total number of houses delivered to 3,030,824 – around a million less than Zuma claimed.

It is possible that Zuma was referring to the delivery of both houses and serviced sites. This, however, is not a house. It is a piece of land, which should be supplied with water, electricity and sanitation, on which a recipient can build their own house.

When serviced sites are included, the number of “housing opportunities” delivered rises to 4,060,795 as of 2015/16.

However, concerns have been raised over the accuracy of the housing statistics. Experts caution that since the figures have not been independently verified they should be viewed as “indicative rather than entirely conclusive”.

GENDER

CLAIM: At the level of gender, at senior management level males remain dominant at 67.6% and females at 32.4%.

VERDICT: Correct.

The Commission for Employment Equity’s 2015/16 annual report showed that 67.6% of employees at senior management were men and 32.4% of employees were women.

AGRICULTURE

CLAIM: There has also been a 19% decline in households involved in agriculture from 2.9 million in 2011 to 2.3 million households in 2016.

VERDICT: Correct.

The Agricultural Household section in Stats SA’s 2016 Community Survey shows that households involved in agriculture decreased from 2.88 million in 2011 to 2.33 million in 2015. The statistical agency indicated that the drop can be attributed to the drought between 2014 and 2015.

Using the unrounded figures, the drop is 17%, not 19%.

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