In the midst of all the chaos and depression around us, we must appreciate the fact that we have still been able to keep some world-class institutions running. One of these is Stats SA, which is right up there with its international peers. Regular visits to its website will show you why that is: the amount, depth and breadth of information is quite something.
In the past few days, three critical pieces of information from Stats SA were drowned out by the ugly, rotten politics. They all related to issues that are key to the lives of South Africans: crime, governance and jobs.
Crime is higher than ever
The first one, titled Exploring the Extent of and Circumstances Surrounding Housebreaking/ Burglary and Home Robbery, looked at these crimes that terrify South African citizens. It noted that, although the proportion of households experiencing this crime that “violates our private space and the one place that we think of as our sanctuary” has been on the decline for five years, public perceptions were the opposite.
Differentiating home robbery (a break-in while the family is there) from housebreaking (burglary), the report says the former “fuels fear in communities, because it puts people at risk of personal injury and emotional trauma in their homes, where they should feel safest”.
Then came the really frightening part, which painted an appalling picture of the arrest and conviction rates.
“An arrest is made in only one out of every five reported cases of housebreaking or home robbery. Only one in five people arrested for housebreaking was convicted, and one in three people arrested for home robbery was convicted,” it stated.
Unacceptable vacancy rates
The second report, The Non-financial Census of Municipalities, contains some disturbing information about the vacancy rates in municipalities that cannot afford to be short of service-delivery personnel. Overall, the vacancy rate jumped from 13.3% in 2015 to 14.4% in 2016. Last year, the most affected areas in terms of unfilled vacancies were environmental protection at 26.1%, road transport at 22.3% and wastewater management at 19.9%. What was worrying was that only health – at 10.9% – had a vacancy rate of less than 12%. Crucial functions such as electricity (13.7%), water (13.6%) and finance (12.9%) had unacceptable vacancy rates.
Such high vacancy rates when positions are fully funded affect service delivery and increase the reliance on outside consultants, the report noted. By way of illustration, it pointed out that in Vryheid – which experienced a severe drought in the year in question and had to employ water tankers – the vacancy rate is 30.5%. Rustenburg’s wastewater management stood at a staggering 69%. Road transport, which is often the cause of community grievance, turned up some alarming numbers. In Mangaung, 74% of vacant posts were unfilled and Masilonyana (also in the Free State) stood at 69%. Although the vacancy rate in electricity came down from 20.2% to 13.7% last year, it is still considered high.
The third was the release of the Quarterly Labour Force Survey, which revealed that South Africa’s unemployment rate now stood at 27.7% – its highest since 2003. Ironically, this was in the quarter in which 144 000 new jobs were created in the economy, a number offset by the entry of 433 000 jobseekers. The survey said 58% of these new jobseekers were between 18 and 34 years of age, thus pushing the youth unemployment rate to 38.6%.
The unemployment rate among those without matric was 33.1%, while among graduates, it was 7.3%. If you use the expanded definition of unemployment by including those who have just given up on looking for work, the figure goes to 36.4%, almost a 10% increase. And if you want it in raw figures, we are talking about 9.3 million South Africans who cannot find work.
Why, I hear you ask, are we talking about such seemingly mundane matters when there are so many more fascinating subjects, such as Duduzane’s complicated love life and the saucy pictures that dropped into his inbox? Why should we be concerned about boring issues when there is such scintillating stuff in the political world – from emails to motions of no confidence and a president who threatens his executive not to “push him too far”?
Well, it is because these are the issues that should be consuming us. In a society that is serious about solving problems, the content of these reports would spell crisis in capital letters. A citizenry that lives in constant fear in a free country is not enjoying its freedom.
Municipalities and government departments that deprive residents of quality services because they are unable to fill vacancies are also depriving people of the tangible fruits of freedom.
The same can be said with regard to the unemployment crisis, which deprives families and individuals of a decent standard of living.
There has to come a time when these are the big issues on the minds of South Africans, both in the state and outside of government.
But then, as the Zuma/Gupta mafia is busy plundering, the country has no choice but to be consumed by their criminal behaviour.
By Mondli Makhanya for News24