Service delivery breeds dissatisfaction. Fact?

2014-02-14 18:36

Africa Check fact-checked President Jacob Zuma’s claims about water in his state of the nation address.

By their very nature, state of the nation addresses are tricky to fact-check.

They are written by committees, the product of many hands and inputs from many government departments and agencies.

The facts and figures that make the final cut are carefully selected and often stripped of nuance and context to present the most positive picture possible.

This is a first look at some the key claims that were made.

Zuma said: “When 95% of households have access to water, the 5% who still need to be provided for, feel they cannot wait a moment longer. Success is also the breeding ground of rising expectations.”

Zuma’s suggestion that recent violent service delivery protests can be attributed to the “rising expectations” of the “5% who still need to be provided for”, has been characterised as “spin-doctoring” by a number of political commentators and opposition parties.

We have been unable to find any reliable research that supports his contention.

The exact source of Zuma’s 95% claim is unclear.

We examined a number of similar claims in a report published last year.

Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa has previously claimed that 94.7% of South Africans have access to “clean and safe drinking water”.

Her spokesperson, Mava Scott, claimed last year that 96.4% of all households had access to “piped water”.

The 2011 national census put the figure of households with “access to piped water” at 91.2%.

The most recent general household survey, published last year by Statistics South Africa, states that 90.8% of households had “access to piped water” in 2012.

The figures differ from province to province.

In the Eastern Cape, for instance, only 79% of households were found to have access to piped water.

When we spoke to him last year, Scott explained that “[w]hen we talk about piped water, we are normally referring to infrastructure and people have access to water coming out of that infrastructure”.

As recent violent water protests in South Africa’s North West province have shown, having a tap in your yard, home or street, doesn’t mean you have water or that the water is “clean and safe”.

Nationally there has been growing dissatisfaction over the quality of water.

According to the general household survey, in 2012, “60,1% of households rated the quality of water-related services they received as ‘good’”.

“Satisfaction has, however, been eroding steadily since 2005 when 76.4% of users rated the services as good.

Residents of Free State, Mpumalanga and Eastern Cape have consistently been least satisfied with the quality of water.

In 2012, 15.1% of households in Free State felt that their water smelled bad compared with 11.7% of Mpumalanga households and only 2.4% of Gauteng households. Free State households were most likely to feel that their water was unsafe to drink (15.1%), not clear (16.5%) and not tasting well (15.2%).”

» Africa Check is a non-profit fact-checking website

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