Did Zuma get his Sona facts straight?

South African President Jacob Zuma delivered his ninth State of the Nation address on 11 February. Africa Check investigated a number of claims he made.  


Claim: “We are proud of our Top 10 ranking in the World Economic Forum competitiveness report with respect to financial services.”

Our verdict: Yes but…

South Africa was ranked 6th out of 144 countries for the “availability of financial services” in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) 2015/16 Global Competitiveness Report.

However, the ranking is not based on objective data or research. Rather, it is the result of an opinion survey of unnamed South African business leaders.

As part of their “Executive Opinion Survey” the WEF asked 58 respondents in 2014 and 50 respondents in 2015 the question: “To what extent does the financial sector [in South Africa] provide a wide range of financial products and services to businesses?”

The business people had to answer on a scale of 1 to 7, where 1 represented “not at all” and 7 “provides a wide variety”. Their combined answers produced a score of 6.1, which put South Africa in 6th place, behind Switzerland, Luxembourg, Hong Kong, United States and Canada.

A further flaw is that the WEF uses a national score to create an international ranking. Respondents may rank their countries differently if they were asked to compare South Africa’s availability of financial services to other countries.


Claim: “There has been no load-shedding since August last year.”

Our verdict: Incorrect

South Africa’s electricity supplier Eskom tweeted on 20 January that there had been no load-shedding in 165 days – since 9 August 2015 – “except 2hrs 20mins” on September 14 last year.

However, they amended their numbers in a media statement on 29 January, saying the utility had been able “to avoid load shedding for the past 136 days”, since 14 September.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe confirmed to Africa Check that they had not implemented any load-shedding since 14 September 2015. He said the power cuts that people have experienced in different areas since then were not due to load-shedding.

“Municipalities have their own distribution points and faults can occur at this level. But on the national grid on Eskom level, we have not had any problems,” Phasiwe said. – Lebohang Mojapelo

Renewable energy

Claim: “The multiple bid windows of the Renewable Independent Power Producer Programme have attracted an investment of R194 billion.”

Our verdict: Broadly correct

Following the rolling black-outs South Africa experienced in 2008 government invited independent power producers to sell electricity to the country’s power supplier, Eskom.

According to a September 2015 report by the department of energy, government has so far procured 6 327 MW from independent power producers. At the end of June 2015, 1 860 MW had come online.

The investments pledged totalled R192.6 billion. – Anim van Wyk


Claim: “To curb water wastage, the Department of Water and Sanitation has begun its programme of training 15 000 young people as artisans.”

Our verdict: Correct

The department of water and sanitation launched their “War on Leaks” project in August 2015.

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).

Spokesperson for the department, Mlimandlela Ndamase, told Africa Check that 2 897 people were receiving training as of January 25 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. – Kate Wilkinson

Life expectancy

Claim: “… life expectancy of South Africans for both males and females has significantly improved and is currently 62 years across genders, which is an increase of eight and a half years since 2005.”

Our verdict: Broadly correct

Life expectancy for both men and women was estimated at 62.5 years in 2015 according to Statistics South Africa’s mid-year population estimates.

This is an increase of nine years since 2005 when life expectancy was 53.5 years. – Kate Wilkinson


Claim: “The HIV policy turnaround in 2009 led to … treatment for 3.2-million people living with the virus.”

Our verdict: Broadly correct

Data for 2015/16 is not publically available yet. But the department of health’s 2014/15 annual report shows that Zuma’s claim is in the right ball park.

According to the department, 3 103 902 people were receiving therapy at the end of March last year. That would be nearly half of the 6.2 million people in the country that Statistics South Africa estimated were living with HIV in 2015.

While experts believe the department’s figures are mostly accurate, problems can creep in because there isn’t a single data system that monitors all patients on treatment and, importantly, removes patients who stop taking their medication or die.

The department’s target for 2015/16 was 3.8 million people on treatment. We will update this report when new figures are released. – Kate Wilkinson

This article was originally published on Africa Check .

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