Presenting the Statistic South Africa (StatsSA) Budget Vote yesterday, the Minister in the Presidency, Mr Mondli Gungubele, reassured South Africans that despite Covid-19 and poor economic growth that led to resource constraints, StatsSA is the bedrock of our strong democratic society and a yardstick that measures the extent to which we have responded to inequality, unemployment and poverty.

StatsSA is also a valuable resource for civil society and commerce, as its data determines our investment climate, reveals consumer behaviour and tracks development indicators. Furthermore, it provides government with evidence-based research data to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness if its policies.

Mr Gungubele also explained that the challenges posed to the 2022 census as a result of Covid-19 regulations have generated new data collection methodologies, which will now become routine. The census is now nearing its completion, but the analysis of its data and results will only be released next year.

Referring to some existing tension between policy makers and StatsSA, he assured his listeners that StatsSA insists on disseminating researched data without fear or favour. “We uphold this principle because it’s part of our five-year plan to utilise our data ecosystem to deepen democracy and to be responsive to sustainable development, improve the lives of our people through evidence based data.”

Mr Zakhele Mbhele of the Democratic Alliance mentioned declines in government resources and tax revenues, as well as vacancies at some government entities as challenges threatening StatsSA’s mandate. In addition, he does not believe that the government makes good use of the data collected as he sees no benefit arising from its use in government policies and implementation.

The African National Congress’s Ms Teliswa Mgweba replied by saying that StatsSA is an indispensable tool for national development and ensures that the government arrives at informed decisions. However, she recognised the decline in StatsSA’s budget as a challenge. Nonetheless, she is optimistic that the 2022 census will reveal the underlying inefficiencies in economic reform and reconstruction policies.

Mr Rosina Komane of the Economic Freedom Fighters said we will not have a credible source of data as long as StatsSA is not an independent entity. In addition, in an austerity budget, StatsSA will be unable to fulfil its mandate to collect reliable quantitative data.

Mr Russel Cebekhulu of the Inkatha Freedom Party registered his concern about the number of rural communities that are not yet counted in the 2022 census, as well as the online registration. “This means a vast number of people in these areas who don’t have access to technology will be left uncounted.” He urged StatsSA to reconsider this decision.

The budget allocated to StatsSA should be consistent with the priorities set for it in the National Development Plan and the development goals set out to achieve its objectives, contested Mr Steven Jafta of the African Independent Congress. However, it StatsSA is to form part of the data revolution and enhance its credibility, it must be supported with sufficient funds, unlike the allocations granted to it in the current financial year, he argued.

Abel Mputing
11 May 2022