Perceptions of SA versus reality

There is solace found in revelling in anxiety about how society is falling apart, especially when we know that it isn’t really. In the past fortnight a chain letter detailing the horrid results of 19 years of ANC governance has become an e-mail and social media hit. It even appeared on these pages disguised as a reader’s letter.

It seems to have hit some nerve of how we imagine South Africa, and so it’s worth a look. Here are the anonymous author’s claims and how they measure up:

Unemployment is up 60%. Untrue. According to the South African Institute of Race Relations, last year’s broad unemployment rate was 36%, a 15% increase on 1994. SA is the rape capital of the world. True. The SAPS note that with 128 reported rapes per 100 000 people, our rape prevalence is far and away the worst of 123 countries and territories that report on this.

We’re 140th on a world list of 144 countries for education. True and false. We come 140th and 142nd in maths and science in some tests. But we now have universal education, unlike some others who may cherry-pick their brightest. This while the 2011 TIMSS ranking of 45 surveyed countries showed our results improve for the first time since 1995.

We are officially the country with the most carjackings. False. There is no “official” global base to use, but our carjackings have fallen 27% these 19 years. We’re in the top 10 for murder. True, but we were number one in 1994. Since then, murder has fallen 54%.

The R/$ has gone from R3.41 to R10.00. True in fact but false in being laid at the ANC’s door since this ignores global economic and policy factors over which government has no control. Notes economist Mike Schüssler: “advanced world currencies are generally stronger than emerging markets”. The same “true and false” attaches to ANC responsibility for higher oil prices.

We have the most corrupt government. False. Transparency International scores SA as middling with an improved perception for the last three years running.

We have 10 times more people in squatter camps. False. Shack dwelling has fallen by a quarter since 1996, and traditional dwellings by 45%. We build 13 formal houses for every shack erected. We have 1 000% more illegal immigrants. Maybe, but no-one knows, although 100 000 people are repatriated each year.

Our roads, railways, military, police, municipal services, old age homes, hospitals and orphanages are worth nothing anymore. False. All these things, except the military, have seen increased investment these two decades, sometimes dramatically.

Our Defence Force is a laughing stock. False. Although smaller than under apartheid, the SANDF acquitted itself well in recent Central African Republic fighting, inflicting anywhere up to 800 enemy casualties for the loss of 15 dead and 30 wounded.

No other country has more convicted criminals in parliament. False simply because comparisons don’t exist, but 40 local MPs were guilty in the Travelgate expenses fraud.

A quarter of all SA schoolgirls are HIV+. False. Schoolgirls aren’t as such tested. Our school girls had 100 000 legal abortions last year. False. The latest figures reported to parliament are for 2006, with 9 900 abortions among children under 18 years.

– Paul Pereira (first published in The Citizen, 18 June 2013)