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Verifying key claims in SA’s 2018 State of the Nation address debate

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Verifying key claims in SA’s 2018 State of the Nation address debate

20th February 2018

By: Africa Check


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South Africa’s parliament squeezed in the debate on the State of the Nation address as well as the president’s reply before the budget speech is set to be delivered. Here we verify key claims made by members of parliament as they reflected on newly-elected President Cyril Ramphosa’s maiden address.

Claim: “The Western Cape has the lowest unemployment rate of all provinces”

Verdict: correct

The Democratic Alliance’s (DA) George Michalakis pointed out that while the Western Cape province has high levels of violence, it has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.


“This is a strange paradox. Lower unemployment should lead to lower crime stats,” he said.

Data from the quarterly labour force survey released by Statistics South Africa last week shows that Michalakis is right about the unemployment rate. In the last quarter of 2017, it had both the lowest narrow and lowest broad unemployment rate (the second rate includes people who had given up looking for a job).


This means that Tsapane Kgwedi Mampuru, who represents the ANC in the National Council of Provinces, was incorrect when later in the debate she said: “I must indicate upfront that Limpopo province has the lowest unemployment rate in the country at 20.8%.” (Note: That was Limpopo’s narrow unemployment rate in the second quarter of 2017, but also then the Western Cape’s rate was slightly lower at 20.7%.) – Ina Skosana

Province Narrow unemployment rate Expanded unemployment rate
Western Cape 19.5% 23.0%
Limpopo 19.6% 36.8%
North West 23.9% 40.6%
KwaZulu-Natal 24.1% 41.0%
Northern Cape 27.1% 40.5%
Mpumalanga 28.9% 39.7%
Gauteng 29.1% 33.7%
Free State 32.6% 39.0%
Eastern Cape 35.1% 44.8%

Source: Stats SA 


Claim: “Local government receives an average of 9% from the national fiscus”

Verdict: correct

Councillor Parks Tau, president of the South African Local Government Association, drew attention to the slice of national revenue that local government receives from treasury.

“We have raised an ongoing concern that… local government receives an average of 9% from the national fiscus,” he said.

Tau’s number is supported by the latest data from national treasury.

The department’s 2017 budget review shows that local government received 8.9% of nationally-raised revenue in 2016/17. In comparison, provinces received 43.1%.

It’s important to note, however, that municipalities are expected to fund most of their own administrative costs. According to treasury, “the constitution gives local government substantial revenue-raising powers” such as property rates and charges for the provision of basic services. These avenues for revenue collection are not available to provinces.

But the ability to gather revenue differs from municipality to municipality, according to local government expert Andrew Siddle.

“The large metros will generally raise the great bulk of their own resources. As you get to smaller and smaller municipalities, their ability to do so decreases,” Siddle explained.

“Some municipalities have almost non-existent revenue bases, for example places out in the sticks where you have property values of no great significance and very small populations. There is nothing from which they can derive adequate revenue from.”

To account for this, the allocation of money to municipalities is adjusted by treasury. This means more resources go to poorer municipalities to account for the lower revenue they are able to collect in comparison to wealthier municipalities. – Kate Wilkinson


Claim: “We boast the highest unemployment rate in the world”

Verdict: incorrect

“It is a well-known fact, that inequalities persist in South Africa and that we boast the highest unemployment rate in the world,” ANC member of parliament Nocawe Mafu told the national assembly during her address.

Statistics South Africa’s most recent data shows that 26.7% of the workforce was unemployed during October to December of 2017. This refers to people who were unemployed and actively looking for work.

The broad unemployment rate – which includes those who were unemployed and had stopped looking for work – was 36.3%.

International comparisons problematic

In 2016, there were four other countries which had higher unemployment rates than South Africa, according to World Bank data:

  • Solomon Islands (31.4%)
  • The Gambia (29.7%)
  • Lesotho (28.3%)
  • West Bank and Gaza (27%)

Mafu’s claim is not supported by the available data but the International Labour Organisation cautions against comparing countries’ unemployment rates in this manner.

Firstly, the data is not always comparable because different surveys ask different questions to different people, producing different results.

Secondly, the World Bank’s 2016 data set did not have estimates for 31 out of the 217 listed countries. A claim can’t be made about “highest unemployment rate in the world” without data for all the world’s countries.

Researched by Africa Check, a non-partisan fact-checking organisation. View the original piece on their website


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