What You Really Need to Know About the SA Census 2011.

As a little girl I remember a man coming to our house to ask us facts about our home. Weird, but I thought it was cool to have someone ‘important’ about, it was 1991, I was 7. Ten years later, I don’t remember the census! Perhaps I was overseas at the time, but now it’s 2011 and the nation wide Census is commencing in 1 week and this time I will be ready and waiting to be counted!

What’s the point of a census you may ask? Well I have to admit that it’s only been through watching Who Do You Think You Are that I’ve seen the tangible value of a census. If you decide to trace your family history, where would you expect to find this information and who could you thank for saving it? This is where a census steps in. Recording demographic and social information, the census presents “an accurate picture of how many people are living in the country and their living conditions as well as access to basic services. This will tell them (planners) what resources people need such as education, healthcare, housing and transport.” – http://www.statssa.gov.za/census2011/faq.asp

Apart from recording the demographic and social information, buildings and dwellings are also recorded. This reveals the historical infrastructure of the area. For example, a castle may have existed on a plot 300 years ago, how would the city know this if the history had not been recorded? If it weren’t for a census, I’m sure the information and layout of District Six, one of our most precious historical areas in Cape Town, would not have been preserved.

I’m sure there are a lot of foreigners, illegal immigrants or criminals who are worried about being ‘caught’ through the census process but this is not the point of the census. The point is to record history and numbers through people and buildings, essentially, to record the factual story of each South African.

Here are TEN FACTS about the census for when you are visited on October 9th:

  1. Each interview will take between 18 minutes – 35 minutes in length.
  2. Enumerators should be identified by their yellow satchel and bib with the Census and Stats SA logos, an A3-size book with a map of the area on the first page and an ID card.
  3. Each enumerator is legally bound to preserve the secrecy of the information gained in the census, this information can not be sold or given to governmental departments (such as SARS).
  4. The questionnaire will be available in all 11 languages.
  5. One can complete the questionnaire ones’ self when the enumerator arrives at your home but it may not delivered by any other means than through the field worker. (Not available online for download.)
  6. You do not have to allow the fieldworker into your home. You can complete the questionnaire orally through the security gate (for example).
  7. The census has 3 questionnaires, one for homes, one for people in transit and one for people in institutions such as hospital for example.
  8. If you are NOT in the country BEFORE MIDNIGHT on October the 9th, you will not be counted. The census is based on right here, right now information. The fact that you are not in South Africa is still valuable information. Whether on holiday or working abroad, you weren’t in the country on the 9th of October 2011, fact. “E.g. babies born before midnight on 9 October 2011 are counted; babies born on 10 October 2011 are not.” – www.statssa.gov.za
  9. You can expect questions about demographics (sex, age, language, etc.), migration (where you live, have you moved), general health & functioning, parental survival, income, education, employment, fertility, access to services and mortality.
  10. Results of the 2011 Census will be available in March 2012.

Statistics South Africa is responsible for the accurate and efficient execution of the 2011 census which will allow South African planners to provide better and more accurate services and facilities for all people in South Africa. The census is a wonderful treasure chest of information often allowing one to search deep back into one’s family history. This presents good news and bad news from the past. For example, some people will appear on one census but never again. This usually means that they have died. On the other side, weddings, unions, promotions and births are all positive facts that are recorded. I hope this information will encourage you to participate willingly in the census. If you do not want to be a part of it, think of your future relatives (100, 200, 300 years from now) who will wonder about their ancestors. Let them know who you are and if it weren’t for you, they wouldn’t be around 😉

If you have any further queries about the census count in the Western Cape, here is contact information for the Western Cape Provincial Executive Manager:

Marius Cronje at mariusc@statssa.gov.za or 021 481 5500

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