Mr Speaker
Distinguished Colleagues
Honourable Members
Ladies and Gentlemen

Census 2011, that now-once-in-a-decade event is upon us. The countdown has begun in earnest; Census 2011 is a mere 20 days away!

Stats SA has done all the necessary preparations. Some 156 000 enumerators, co-ordinators  and supervisors have been recruited and trained; these fieldworkers have gone out, armed with clipboards to list every dwelling in the country; questionnaires have been prepared, printed and distributed along with other census materials; 130 offices have been rented and equipped and 6 000 vehicles hired, advertisements have been placed and pilots and dress rehearsals have been conducted. The preparations already completed speak to the scale of the operation, the largest deployment of people in peacetime in our country.

Yet, as we enter these final days, there remains a foreboding sense that swirls around the question – “what risks remain?”

Perhaps the greatest risk is that people do not voluntarily participate in being counted – they shut the doors, let out the dogs and turn out the lights when the enumerators approach. Actually, the only reason why people might respond in this manner is that we haven’t taken the time to allay their fears and to explain to them that participation in the census, apart from it being a statutory obligation, is directly and unashamedly in their own best interest.

Mister Speaker, the “we” who need to do the explaining and who haven’t yet made the time for the face-to-face contact are the 400 Honourable Members of this House, the 90 Honourable Members of the NCOP, the 430 Members  of the nine Provincial Legislatures and the  9018 councillors who sit in the 243 Municipalities across the length of our country. The “we” includes all of us as public representatives, regardless of the political parties we are part of. Census will only succeed if we communicate it as a national all-inclusive endeavour.

As public representatives, we have the most to benefit from a Census that is successfully run because the data obtained from the Census are the vital tools we need to be proper public representatives.  As we gather, the tools at our disposal are fairly blunt now – the last Census was conducted in 2001, and in the intervening period Stats SA has conducted a myriad of surveys – granted, some of these have been large, the Community Survey, for example, was conducted in October 2007 and involved 345 170 households across the country. The information gained from these surveys is important, but none of these can ever replace the trove of information that we will uncover in a full-on census that takes in every single household. Good workers, such as we aim to be in the service of our people, need the best and sharpest tools and there is simply no other way to acquire this than through conducting a detailed Census. We have estimated that there are 14.5 million households but have printed 20 million questionnaires, just in case. Each questionnaire is 14 pages long and has 75 questions.

As we progress with our democracy, the need for evidence-based decision-making grows, and this evidence-based decision-making requires very high levels of detail. It is required at the national level, including the FFC analysis of provincial populations and levels of income. Provinces are responsible for providing the first level of pro-poor services such as Basic Education, Health, Social Services, and Human Settlements need to have this level of detailed information. Municipalities need this information. In light of the report by the Treasury last week on Local Government Budgets and Expenditure, it is important that we understand our responsibility to enable municipalities to fulfil their constitutional mandate. This information is vital for municipalities to improve on the quality of the services that they render.

Let me share with you a few observations about the constituency that I serve in Mitchells Plain. It is a large area, which in the 2001 census had 398 650 people living in it; we approximate that currently we have about 512 000 people there – we need an accurate number! The area has been divided into 395 Enumerator Areas by Stats SA, each comprising about 120-150 households. Stats SA has recruited 395 enumerators from Mitchells Plain to visit the households – this is an important step because these enumerators know the area, speak the same languages as residents, and should be trusted. If there are any queries residents should check the enumerators Stats SA Census ID and call the toll-free number 0800 110 248 to confirm. In addition, Stats SA has hired the services of 101 supervisors including people like Mrs Faith Benjamin, Mr Daniel Muller, and Ms Sheena Arendse to ensure the success of the count.

As a Member of Parliament for Mitchells Plain, my interest in the Census is knowing that we have the information to evaluate whether the community is adequately serviced. How many people reside there? What is the age and gender distribution of the population? Are there an adequate number of schools? What percentage of people work? To what extent is youth unemployment a problem? I can then establish whether additional libraries might be required, or whether there is a legitimate demand for an FET college, I can establish the adequacy of health facilities. Information about the consumption of water and electricity will be important – does the municipality meet the legal requirements to provide free basic services? The municipality needs to use the same data to establish whether it adequately provides for sport and recreation or those services we do not like to discuss such as refuse and sewerage disposal. This is the kind of information I need to move me from guesswork to facts, so that I can be a better representative of the community of Mitchells Plain.

And I daresay that each one of us – whether in Houghton or Moletjie, in Cofimvaba or in Kloof, in Manenberg or in Mahekeng needs the same detail of information about the constituency we serve. The only way to secure that level of detail is to know that the risks have been attended to. We need the involvement of every public representative in the process of Census 2011.  And by involvement, we are not asking MP’s to undertake the counting – heaven forbid – but to give the assurance to residents, give encouragement to the enumerators, help problem-solve in hard-to-count areas such as gated communities and densely-packed informal settlements. It is also very, very important that public representatives can give assurances to constituents who may have fears because they speak languages other than our eleven official languages or because they may be undocumented – the purpose of the census is to count everybody and because the census details are covered by confidentiality provisions, the information obtain may not be given to another government department such as Home Affairs, the Police Service or the Revenue Service. The information is exclusively for the purpose of compiling the census.

Mister Speaker, we are calling on all public representatives to be Ambassadors for Census 2011. Apart from the tasks of assurance and problem solving, there is much advocacy to be done. Public representatives can do much to speak to organised formations – the faith-based community organisations, civic organisations, trade union locals, sports clubs, schools, formations representing immigrant communities, every conceivable organisation should be reached by public representatives. We make this appeal to our public representatives because you are best placed to know and understand the communities and constituencies that you represent. While Stats SA may be able to plan for possible contingencies, they cannot know the level of detail that a public representative would know about a particular area. We know details like where there are backyard dwellers, we know where there are farmers who may not want to disclose the number of farmworkers, we know of households where in reality there may be three families in a single dwelling. These are things that despite extensive preparation, we may miss because participants may not want us to know about it. This is where your assistance as a public representative will be invaluable. It bears reiteration that it is in your best interests that we know exactly what the structure of your constituency is.

Because your role in making this a success is so crucial, we want to arm you with adequate back-up. Information packs have been made available to all Honourable Members before the House convened this afternoon. Please join us in making Census 2011 a resounding success. We are very dependent on the efforts of public representatives to spread the word. Unfortunately, the media who’ve been outstanding at running the Countdowns to the Football and Rugby World Cups, are less enthusiastic about running the clocks to the morning of 10 October!

So let us make it happen!