2021 Local Election Factsheet: Electricity in South Africa

South Africa is set to hold municipal elections on 1 November 2021.

Over the final voter registration weekend in September 2021, angry citizens confronted President Cyril Ramaphosa about poor electricity supply, while he was visiting Soweto.

The president later acknowledged that electricity had “become the foremost pressing issue for communities around the country”.
This factsheet looks at the available data on electricity access.

1. Who has access to mains electricity?

The latest Statistics South Africa data shows that 85% of South African households were connected to mains electricity in 2019. In 2002, 76.7% of households were connected.

Limpopo has the highest share of connected households: 93.4% of the province’s households have mains electricity. Gauteng has the lowest. The share of Gauteng households with mains electricity dropped from 87.2% in 2002 to 76.6% in 2019.

Stats SA’s service delivery statistics manager Niël Roux said: “The decline observed in Gauteng is most likely driven by the sharp growth in the number of households in Gauteng due to high levels of migration into the province”.

2. How people across the provinces rate their electricity supply

Stats SA data from 2018 shows that 67% of households rated the quality of their electricity supply service as “good”.

People in the Western Cape gave their electricity supply the highest rating, at 84.5%. This was followed by Mpumalanga (73.8%) and North West (71.3%).

People in the Free State were most dissatisfied, with only 54.3% of households describing their electricity supply was “good”. Gauteng had the second lowest approval rating, at just 57%.

ALSO READ: 2021 Local Election Factsheet: Water in South Africa

3. Who doesn’t have access to electricity?

In 2019, about 15% of South Africa’s households were not connected to mains electricity, Stats SA says.
An estimated 17.6% of black African headed households were not connected to mains electricity. This was followed by households headed by coloured people (6.3%), then Indian of Asian headed households (3%) and finally households headed by white people (1.5%).

4. Who had mains electricity in 1994?

In an earlier report, Africa Check quoted Roux as saying South Africa’s 1996 census was probably the “earliest credible data’” on electricity access.
It estimated that 58.2% of households used electricity as their main source for lighting, with 47.4% using electricity for cooking and 46.5% for heating.
Statistics from the early 1990s should be compared with caution to more recent figures. This is because of differences in sampling, methodology and definitions.

By: Africa Check (Africa Check is the continent’s leading fact-checking organisation. Visit africacheck.org for more.)