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Get the menu and get counted: Census 2022 is here

South Africans will soon be counted. However, there are now numerous methods for South Africans to submit the census form.

South Africans will soon be counted. However, there are now numerous methods for South Africans to submit the census form.

Published Feb 2, 2022


From February 2, the mighty organisation Statistics SA takes on the most difficult voyage in the history of statistical exploration. This will be the fourth Population Census in the history of post-apartheid South Africa and the first in which I am not involved as the chief enumerator, but one where I will wait to be served.

Thirty-six ago, I assumed a leadership role in Bophuthatswana Statistics and undertook the homeland census there in 1985. Six years later, in 1991, I led the second census of the homeland, which occurred amid political transitions and tensions.

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One of those was that King Molotlegi of the Bafokeng had a confrontation with the Bophuthatswana government and subsequently fled to Botswana. That turned the smooth-running operation in Bafokeng belly up.

Another disruption was in Winterveld in the Odi district. In this region, the police were engaged in a crime-busting operation. During the day, the enumerators collected details of citizens, and by the evening, the police deployed a blitz operation. Two independent operations were not difficult to conflate in the minds of citizens. It was concluded that these counters passed the information they collected by day to the police, who then came and harassed them by night.

Census ’96 was contested, and citizens of Chief Kgosi Ramopodi in Modedema refused to be counted unless and until they were incorporated in Mpumalanga, and there was a serious standoff.

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A similar occurrence was witnessed in 2011, when Silvertown in Gqberra refused to be counted and demanded corrugated iron for building and repairing their shacks, as well as demanding that I bring the councillor to answer development questions and many other citizens concerns. When I said I did not have such powers, they said we saw you counting Madiba you have powers.

It is with this history I was privileged with as a civil servant that on the eve of the fourth Census in democratic South Africa. I now look back with nostalgia on the exciting and challenging experiences of privilege and trust bestowed upon me to lead such a juvenile team, but imbued with a winning spirit, to shed light to the nation through Census ’96 and subsequently 2001 and 2011.

But those censuses, difficult as they might have been, were nothing compared to what Statistician-General Risenga Maluleke and his team of green are faced with. They first have to deal with the monster of Covid-19, which has been very disruptive, which I have had first-hand experience through researching the 2020 Round of Census.

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The US led the pack in the list of these challenges. These were Covid-19 itself and then president Donald Trump. But in the end, the US Bureau of the Census prevailed and triumphed.

As our mighty statistics organisation also takes the first step under the cloud of Omicron and the raging campaigns against undocumented migrants and migrants occupying lower-level occupations, the task is not going to be easy at all. For the next six weeks, this mighty army of green and no longer yellow will comb every nuke and cranny of the country physically and virtually.

I was impressed by the online registration that allows you to decide on what census menu you wish to devour. This is a great innovation, which Stats SA has come to be known for. This innovation lessens the burden of access to the high walled areas in particular.

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On the menu of multi-modal census, enumeration deployment is the option of self-enumeration whereby you fill in the census form yourself and upload it to the massive StatsSA servers, or using your preference to be called by telephone through Computer Assisted Telephone Interview (CATI) or your preference might be through an enumerator paying you a visit and uses a hand-held device to count you through Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI). Gone are the days of paper and trees can be happy. StatsSA has extended the registration period for choosing what your preference is to February 5, and please visit to enlist.

I will remain more of a traditionalist, having gone out to count others on at least five occasions in three and half decades. It is not asking too much for the mighty organisation to come and count me in the comfort of my home. I wish the Statistician-General and his team every success as they undertake this mammoth task under unprecedented challenges.

Dr Pali Lehohla is the former Statistician-General of South Africa and former head of Statistics South Africa, meet him @ Palilj01 and


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