Cape Town – Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has cautioned against residents jumping to the wrong conclusion while staff are busy with their data collection.
This comes after an incident on September 19 when Stats SA field staff were suspected of child trafficking by Zone 20 residents in Langa, which led to them having to hide in a nearby house out of fear for their lives until the police arrived.
Stats SA spokesperson Felicia Sithole said on Friday: "Two of our field staff were conducting their daily field visits in the Langa areas in Cape Town in an attempt to establish contact with a representative of the sampled household for data collection purposes.
"At the time of the incident, the fieldworkers were seen engaging a minor representative of the household, leading to the neighbour deducing that something suspicious was taking place.
"The neighbour alerted other residents, who gathered around and threatened the safety of our field staff, leading to fieldworkers finding refuge in one of the nearby houses until the arrival of the police.
"The manner in which this incident was handled is regrettable, notwithstanding the reputational damage this is likely to cause.
"We are requesting that communities please check the credentials of any person who comes to their door. Stats SA field staff are issued with branded identity cards and field gear. Where possible, vehicles are also visibly branded."
Stats SA will be in field for the Census 2021 Mini Test from October 9 to November 6 in Cape Town, visiting Viking Park, Thornton, Langa, Bonteheuwel and Pinelands.
"In the event that communy members are doubtful of the legitimacy of the person at their door, they are encouraged to reach out to the protection services and avoid acts of vigilantism," Sithole said.
"We wish to reassure our communities that, as an organisation, we will do everything in our power to communicate with residents to announce our presence in their areas.
"Owing to the nature of surveys we conduct, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) continuously engages with communities. We value and understand the importance of trust between the organisation and the communities we collect data from."