All indications are that farming areas were poorly counted during the recent national census. Free State Agriculture president Louw Steytler, who lives in Luckhoff, said he had not been counted.
“As far as I know, a lot of people here have never seen the census enumerators. It is a pretty shoddy affair. The reality is that no one really knows how many people there are in the country. All the economic planning for the future will be done on fictitious figures. That in itself is dangerous,” he said.
Census project director Calvin Molongoana admitted that counting farming communities had proved difficult. “Northern Cape and North West in particular were not well covered. In terms of total enumeration, 1,2% of areas was not covered by 31 October and that was mainly in farming areas,” he said.
The problem with counting rural communities lay in the distances between sparse populations.
“We were not able to provide vehicles for all field staff and they were unable to cover all the farming areas in time.
“We specifically need to put more emphasis on farming areas during the mop-up operation. Enumerators who completed their work in urban areas are being shifted to rural areas,” said Molongoana. The mop-up operation is followed by the post-enumeration survey – from 7 November to 10 December – which provides an independent check of census coverage through a representative survey of 1% or less of the total enumeration area.
“Based on the survey, we could be in a position to determine the overall undercount that may have been experienced. Adjustments will be made accordingly if need be,” said Molongoana. He added that an undercount would mean the country did not have reliable data at the lowest level.
“At the highest national level, you will still be in a position to give more accurate figures for planning purposes but once you start drilling down to the lowest level, the margin of undercount would start distorting numbers a bit. We definitely want to avoid an undercount at all costs,” he said.
Census publicity co-ordinator Hennie Venter said he had received feedback about excellent co-operation from farmers in several provinces, and that refusals had been minimal. – Robyn Joubert