Promise check: 5 million work opportunities instead of 6 million for ANC?

Beneficiaries of the expanded public works programme at work in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The programme provides temporary paid work opportunities. Picture: Mandla Mnyakama
Beneficiaries of the expanded public works programme at work in Khayelitsha, Cape Town. The programme provides temporary paid work opportunities. Picture: Mandla Mnyakama

Just more than five years ago, the ANC released its 2014 election manifesto. Did the ruling party keep the promises it made then? We track a selection.

PROMISE: In the next five years the ANC will massively expand public works programmes to create 6 million work opportunities

A work opportunity is paid work offered to someone on any of the expanded public works programme (EPWP) projects. The EPWP aims to provide “poverty and income relief through temporary work for the unemployed”.

Work opportunities can run for any period of time, but typically last a few months. Examples include work on early childhood development programmes, home-based care programmes and roads maintenance projects.

Some learner-ships also count as work opportunities. These range from pharmacy assistance to tea production.

From the start of the 2014/15 financial year to September last year (the latest available data), a total of 4.3 million work opportunities were created.

Work opportunities

When the same person is employed on different projects, each period of employment is counted as a work opportunity, which would mean that fewer than 4.3 million people benefited from the programme.

The 4.3 million work opportunities are 1.7 million short of the 6 million target in the ANC’s manifesto, with just six months remaining in which to fulfil the promise.

The department of public works concedes that it might not achieve the target. “Looking at the current reporting trends, the programme might create 5 million work opportunities by March this year,” says Stanley Henderson, deputy director-general at the department, who is responsible for the EPWP.

READ: ANC promise: 435 000 electricity grid connections in 5 months a tall order

Can we trust the numbers?

In some cases, work opportunity numbers in the EPWP reports don’t match those in the department’s annual reports.

According to Henderson, this largely happens because public bodies underreport work opportunities.

“The figure in the annual report contains corrections that have been made as a result of auditing, by adding the work opportunities that had not been included in the original [EPWP] system report.”

The Auditor-General (AG) identified a number of “issues” with the capturing of data on work opportunities. These included dead beneficiaries, a lack of supporting evidence for work opportunities reported and the inclusion of beneficiaries on numerous projects when they only participated in one.

Asked whether the EPWP data are reliable, the AG’s office referred Africa Check/City Press to a 2017/18 report on government audit outcomes.

It identifies the department of public works as one of the departments that failed to report “in a reliable manner on the performance of their programmes”. It added that information on the programmes’ achievements “was not always gathered in a consistent manner or was not credible”.

The report indicates the reported number of work opportunities created in 2017/18 was not reliable. Henderson acknowledges that underreporting because of poor record-keeping by public bodies is a problem. “The EPWP work opportunity numbers reported are much higher on the ground.”

Despite the AG’s findings, he says, the data in the EPWP reports have been validated and are considered to be reliable by the department.



Given the reported pace of delivery to date, it seems unlikely that 1.7 million work opportunities will be created within six months. The department estimates that the EPWP might create 5 million work opportunities by March – one million short of the target.


Lerato Monethi, the ANC’s national elections communications manager, acknowledged receipt of a request for comment on our findings on Wednesday and said the party would “revert”. However, no response was received within the 48 hours provided. She could not be reached via WhatsApp, email, SMS or phone on Friday. When the ANC does respond, City Press and Africa Check will update the online versions of these promises to reflect the party’s comment.

  • This package is part of a journalism partnership with Africa Check, the continent’s leading fact-checking organisation. The project aims to ensure that claims made by those in charge of state resources and of delivering essential services are factually correct. In the run-up to this year’s national and provincial elections, it is increasingly important that voters are able to make informed decisions. This series aims to provide voters with the tools to do that. Africa Check and City Press will be tracking more of the ANC’s promises in the run-up to the election
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