On the tenth day of the tenth month in the tenth year of the millennium, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) will be deploying an army of 120 000 people dressed in yellow bibs who will be combing the length and breadth of South Africa. On that day, this army of peace will enlist households and their members from the undulating hills of KwaZulu-Natal to the flat planes of the Free State. They will count in the winelands of the Western Cape while the imposing Table Mountain towers over them.
The desert of the Kalahari in the Northern Cape will experience a different form of river; it will be the census workforce giving numerical visibility and life to this massive province. In the Eastern Cape from Qunu to the Pondoland, the Amatola will be fully accounted for. North West, the platinum and maize province and the province of the Taung skull, will be counted. Our census enumerators will take stock of the great Mapungubwe, and will pour numerical libation to the greats of Limpopo. Mpumalanga, the province in the sun, will be covered. Finally, the province of the city of gold and home to numerous nationalities, will be covered.
The poor, the rich, the homeless, those in transit at hotels, the young and the old, boys and girls, men and women, the disabled, the educated and the schooled, the wise, the blue collar, the white collar, those on the edge, the sick, the healthy, the unemployed and the employed, those in educational institutions, those in the country under whatever conditions, legal or not, it matters less, there is no difference among yourselves, you are all important and all your importance is equal before the census and you shall thus be counted. All people in South Africa shall be counted. We seek to know you, we seek to understand you. You count!
For you to know and understand South Africa, Census 2011 needs to access you; therefore you need to open your hearts, your minds, your doors, your communities, your suburbs and your villages to the census. You count!
On 10 October 2011, we will visit you and ask you a number of questions about your age, sex, employment, education, income, and births and deaths that occurred in the household, and about household and family arrangements. We will ask you about your access to services such as water, electricity and sanitation. We will enquire about your access to communication. All this information needs to be gathered so that you can know about South Africa and its needs and its achievements.
This exercise is not the first of its kind in South Africa; our country has a long history of census-taking dating back to the 18th century when partial attempts were made at undertaking a census. More recently, we have had two censuses in the post-apartheid era, namely Census ’96 and Census 2001, and we can arguably say these were the censuses all South Africans related to on an equal footing. Census 2011 is the third census to be conducted. Out of this arsenal of information we will know whether South Africa is making progress. We will also know what it is that needs to be done.
The African Renaissance, South Africa’s march to a better quality of life, should and needs to be anchored on a strong knowledge and information base. The two censuses do provide the basic tenets for such a future; the third one consolidates and raises even better hope for this sought-out better quality for all.
We are not alone in this endeavour – the world has gone ahead of us. The United States completed its census in January 2010; Kenya has just released its results and this will give meaning to its constitutional reform. Mozambique released theirs in 2009. Zambia and Ghana both conducted their census in 2010. For statisticians and politicians this is the exciting moment as the facts about the state get collected and presented.
The information will be particularly important as we race against time in order to achieve the Millennium Development Goals. We know that we are notorious for undercounting, and this has been the case in all censuses we have undertaken. This time around we have organised ourselves differently. We will be in there early and out there for a long, long time in order to account for each and every person.
The minister we account to has given us a tight margin: no more than a 2% undercount. This is what we shall work towards achieving. To be involved in a census is a privilege, and I have been privileged to lead four censuses thus far and to launch this, the fifth. Not many of us have had this privilege and I bet I am the only one to have led at least four such undertakings. No ship that is laden has its water mark on the lowest part of its base. As it gets loaded the water mark rises and rises. With such responsibility we therefore need to remain humble, like a ship loading at the dock.
Stand up and be counted, count us in, sibale sonke, hihlayeni enkweru, rivale rote, sibale sonke, re bale bohle, re bale ba bothle, tel ons by!
Head: Statistics South Africa