ANC billboard’s sanitation claim is false

An ANC billboard  –  which was erected illegally at a Cape Town school and then removed this week amid a storm of controversy – stated that the number of South Africans with access to sanitation increased eight-fold in the past 19 years.

The billboard – which called on people to register for next year's general election – stated that only 5-million South Africans had access to sanitation in 1994, compared to 41-million in 2013.

Crunching the numbers
Fact-checking website Africa Check asked Tom Moultrie, an associate professor of demography at the University of Cape Town and director of the Centre for Actuarial Research, to crunch the numbers.

By defining access to sanitation as having access to a flush toilet or chemical toilet and using census data from 1996 and 2011 – the closest to the dates on the billboard – the following emerges:

  • In 1996, around 16.4-million South Africans living in 4.55-million households had access to flush or chemical toilets;
  • In 2011, about 28.3-million people living in 9-million households had flush or chemical toilets;
  • The numbers of people with access to sanitation increased by about 11.9-million in the 15 years between 1996 and 2011; and
  • The numbers of households with access to sanitation increased by about 4.45-million.​

Claim 'exaggerates' ANC's achievements
Moultrie told Africa Check it appeared that "the number presented [on the billboard] for 1994 seems to represent households, not people".

He said: "In 1996 there were 4.55-million households with access to sanitation. Perhaps that was rounded up to 5-million?" 

The source of the ANC's claim that 41-million people have access to sanitation in 2013 is unclear. But it was highly unlikely that the number of people with access to sanitation soared by 12.7-million following the 2011 census, he continued.

"The effect is to exaggerate the service delivery of sanitation in the country over the past 19 years," Moultrie said. He added that there was little reason for doing so as the number of households with access to sanitation almost doubled between 1996 and 2011 and this "represented "a singular achievement".

The ANC's Western Cape provincial secretary, Songezo Mjongile, said the organisation stood by the numbers published on the billboard and claimed they were based on data obtained from Statistics South Africa.

"The ANC has changed the lives of people in terms of sanitation and housing. We stand by the figures that were published on the billboard," he said.

The ANC's claim exaggerates its achievements over the past 19 years and is not supported by the available data, concluded Africa Check.

As South Africa's 2014 general election looms, political parties and politicians are increasingly likely to make inflated claims about their achievements. Any claims they make should be questioned.

This article was originally published by Africa Check.

Raymond Joseph &
Guest Author

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