The Census 2022 deadline has been extended three times already, but Statistics South Africa’s fieldworkers are still having trouble wrapping up their work in farming communities.
Stats SA spokesperson Patrick Kelly tells Food For Mzansi that, despite the good relations they have enjoyed with farmers, there are some challenges that hinder them in concluding their work.
“Often, farmers require us to make an appointment to come to them. These appointments are mostly based on when it is convenient for the farmer to welcome and engage with us, and do not fit into the production cycle.” He adds that fieldworkers having to be organised to go to specific farms on specially arranged dates, is one part of the delay in farming areas.
‘Service delivery at risk’
Mzansi’s census count officially kicked off on 3 February this year with the original deadline set at 28 February. The latest of three extensions set the new deadline at 14 May.
Kelly says counting as many people as possible is critical for government to make informed decisions about where most of the country’s services are needed and by which groupings.
“If we do not have an accurate census count, it means that we are not able to plan effectively for putting in services like schools, hospitals or infrastructure like roads and sewerage, water and electricity.
“When it comes to agricultural areas, it is very important for the census to get the statistics because it will be important for government to understand where agriculture workers live, work and how many people in a particular farming community are employed in the sector.”
Speaking to Food For Mzansi, Agri SA executive director Christo van der Rheede once again emphasises the importance of the farming community being counted.
“Obviously it is important for everyone to participate because it is critical that government has the right statistics. Without that knowledge, we would not be able to grow the sector or address the concerns of this industry, so it is important.”
In a previous article, Van der Rheede said that it was part of the organisation’s job to ensure that Stats SA got collaboration from farmers and farmworkers, “so that the stats that are gathered will be a true reflection of what is happening in rural areas”.
Currently, van der Rheede says that the only holdup the organisation is aware of in the farming community specifically, is appropriate times for census interviews to happen. He says in cases where farms operate with machinery, census workers can only be allowed after hours so that work on the farm is not hampered. Van der Rheede says census staff need to be prepared for this.
Some counted, others not
Meanwhile, some farmers tell Food For Mzansi that they are yet to be visited by census fieldworkers, while others have been counted.
Maphate Rakoma from Nobody village in Limpopo says they have not been counted yet and she believes that it would be an injustice to them as farmers and farmworkers if they were not counted. “As a farmer I believe it is important to be counted so that our concerns and suggestions can be taken further by government.”
Kobedi Pilane from North West says that he and his workers, too, have not been counted.
Sehularo Sehularo from Kimberley in the Northern Cape says that he and his workers have been counted and that the census fieldworkers were helpful. “I can confirm that myself and the workers were counted by census workers right here on the farm. I am grateful that they were able to reach us in the farming community.”
Free State grain farmer Phaladi Matsole was counted along with his workers as well. They are hopeful that government will address especially their concerns around infrastructure.
5.4 million households counted
Kelly confirms to Food For Mzansi that, to date, 15.4 million households have been counted. He is not yet able to provide a breakdown of the national count within farming communities. This will only be available when the census is concluded and the last report is tabled.
Kelly reiterates that it is important for everyone to participate so that the final numbers will be a true reflection of what South Africans need, especially in rural areas.
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