I find that the respectable man, so called, has immediately drifted from his position, and despairs of his country, when his country has more reason to despair of him…
Oh for a man who is a man, and, as my neighbour used to say, has a bone in his back which you cannot pass your hand through! Our statistics are at fault: the population has been returned too large. How many men are there to a square thousand miles in this country? Hardly one.1

The Statistics Act 1999 is concerned with more than just the population census (although that does feature as an important purpose of the statute). The Act falls under the authority of the Minister of Finance, but the Statistician-General administers the Act. He is also the accounting officer for Statistics South Africa, which is the statutory body responsible for collating and compiling statistics, and the data necessary to assist organs of state, businesses, other organisations – and the public in general – in their planning, decision-making, monitoring and assessment of policies, decisions and other actions.

A. Officers of Statistics South Africa

  1. Any officer of Statistics South Africa who, in the course of his employment, makes any false declaration, statement or return is guilty of an offence.2

  2. It is a crime for an officer to obtain (or seek to obtain) information that he is not authorised to obtain, or put to any person a question which he is not authorised to ask.3

  3. It is a crime for an officer to ask of, or receive, or take from anybody any payment or reward in connection with his employment (other than his salary, of course).4

  4. If an officer discloses any data or information obtained in the course of employment to a person not authorised to receive that information, he commits an offence.5

  5. If an officer uses information obtained in the course of his employment for the purpose of speculating in shares, or in any goods or services, before its release is authorised by the Statistician-General he will be guilty of an offence.6

B. Impersonation

  1. Any person who impersonates an officer of Statistics South Africa for the purpose of obtaining information from any person or body is guilty of an offence.7

  2. It is also a crime8 to represent that you are:

    • entering land or premises with authority for the purpose of making enquiries or observations necessary for achieving the purpose of the Act;9 or
    • putting a question to someone in the performance of official functions, when you are not an officer of Statistics South Africa and duly authorised to do so.10

C. Obstruction

  1. It is a crime to refuse the Statistician-General, or any authorised officer of Statistics South Africa, entry onto any land or into any premises.11

  2. It is a crime to refuse to permit the Statistician-General, or an authorised officer, to inspect anything on land or in any premises.12

  3. It is a crime to obstruct the Statistician-General, or any officer, in the exercise of a power or the performance of a duty in terms of the Act.13

D. Supplying information

  1. Any individual (other than an employee of an organ of state), business or other organisation that:
    • fails to answer a question officially put to him;14
    • furnishes an answer to such a question which is false or misleading in any material respect;15
    • fails to furnish information or sign a declaration officially required of him;16
    • furnishes such information which is false or misleading in any material respect;17
    • incites any other person so to act,

    is guilty of an offence.18

  2. If after 14 days from the date of sentencing for any of the above offences, the information has still not been furnished, that individual, business or other organisation is guilty of a further offence.19

E. Confidentiality

  1. Any person who discloses any information collected (from an individual, a household, an organ of state, a business or any other organisation) for official or other statistics-related purposes, commits an offence if such disclosure is not within an exemption allowed for in terms of the Act.20
  1. Extract from Henry David Thoreau’s work Civil Disobedience – Part 1 of 3. See Thoreau was a 19th century American author, naturalist, philosopher and abolitionist. The essay Civil Disobedience was an argument for individual resistance to civil government in moral opposition to an unjust state, which was later given far greater recognition following the lifelong pursuits for justice by Marthin Luther King, Jr. 

  2. Section 18(1)(a). 

  3. Section 18(1)(b) and (c). 

  4. Section 18(1)(d). 

  5. Section 18(1)(e). 

  6. Section 18(1)(f)(i) and (ii). 

  7. Section 18(2)(a). 

  8. Section 18(2)(b). 

  9. Section 15(1). 

  10. Section 16(1). 

  11. Section 18(3)(d)(i). 

  12. Section 18(3)(d)(ii). 

  13. Section 18(3)(e). 

  14. Section 18(3)(a). 

  15. Section 18(3)(a). 

  16. Section 18(3)(b). 

  17. Section 18(3)(b). 

  18. Section 18(3)(c). 

  19. Section 18(4)(b). 

  20. Section 17(1) read with 18(1)(g).