The third census since the end of apartheid began on Monday (10 October 2011) and continues to; Census 2011 got underway this week.
The nation-wide headcount will be carried out by 120 000 South Africa fieldworkers and targets 14-million households. The final bill is estimated to be around R2-billion.
A South African census is undertaken every 10 years, in line with international standards.
Residents –citizens or not – are legally obliged to answer the 75 questions in the 14-page form. The questions focus on demographics, migration, health, income, education, employment, fertility, mortality and access to services.
The final data will guide the allocation of state resources and provision of services such as health and education.
First to be counted were the homeless and children born in hospitals from midnight onwards on 10 October.
More difficult to count will be Zimbabwean nationals, many of whom reside illegally in South Africa. The Home Affairs department instituted a four-month Zimbabwe Documentation Process, which ended in December last year, in an attempt to regularise the residence of as many as 1,5-million Zimbabwean migrants. A moratorium – since lifted – was placed on the deportation of illegal Zimbabwean immigrants for the period.
The registration process met with limited success: only 275 000 Zimbabweans applied for residence permits. This can be partly attributed to distrust, widespread in Zimbabwean expatriate communities, of South African immigration and law enforcement officials.
The estimated million-plus illegal Zimbabwean immigrants are therefore likely to avoid the headcount – despite the legal obligation to answer the questions, and a statutory undertaking that no information can be shared or used for other purpose.