Ed­u­ca­tion: cen­suses in SA

YOU (South Africa) - - CONTENTS -

ACENSUS is the process of col­lect­ing in­for­ma­tion about ev­ery mem­ber of a coun­try’s pop­u­la­tion. The govern­ment counts how many peo­ple there are in the coun­try and col­lects other in­for­ma­tion such as how many speak each of the var­i­ous lan­guages, the level of poverty and any progress made since the pre­vi­ous cen­sus.

The govern­ment then uses this in­for­ma­tion to plan for the fu­ture of the coun­try’s cit­i­zens – and hope­fully im­prove it.

Let’s find out more about South Africa’s most re­cent cen­sus, which was taken in 2011, and the in­ter­est­ing con­clu­sions we can draw from the sta­tis­tics it pro­vided.


The first of­fi­cial cen­sus in SA was con­ducted in 1798 when the British oc­cu­pied the Dutch Cape Colony. It was in a time of slav­ery and the head of each colo­nial house­hold had to give an in­di­ca­tion of how many fam­ily mem­bers, as well as how many slaves and live­stock, lived on their prop­erty.

Dur­ing the time the Cape was a British colony, a pub­li­ca­tion was printed ev­ery year from 1823 to 1837 with sta­tis­tics on its res­i­dents. This was in­for­mally known as the an­nual blue book. In 1865 and 1875 the British au­thor­i­ties in the Cape Colony also con­ducted of­fi­cial cen­suses. In 1880 a cen­sus was taken in the Orange Free State and Natal had its turn in 1891.

An 1891 Cape cen­sus found there were 1 527 224 peo­ple in the colony, of whom 376 987 (or 24,68%) were white.

Two years af­ter the British de­feated the Boer re­publics in the Sec­ond An­glo-Boer War in 1902 a na­tional cen­sus of South Africa was taken. At the time the coun­try, which then con­sisted of the British Cape, Natal, Transvaal and Orange River colonies, had a pop­u­la­tion of about 5,2 mil­lion – that’s one tenth of to­day’s pop­u­la­tion.

In 1904 there were 3 490 291 black peo­ple, 1 117 234 white peo­ple, 444 661 coloured peo­ple and 122 311 In­di­ans and other Asians.

In 1910 the British Em­pire in­te­grated its SA colonies into the Union of South Africa, and took a 1911 a cen­sus of all races.

In 1921, 1936 and 1951 more cen­suses were held that in­cluded all races but in 1918, 1926, 1931 and 1941 cen­suses of only the white pop­u­la­tion were con­ducted. Af­ter the Na­tional Party (NP) came into power in 1948 and im­ple­mented its apartheid pol­icy, cen­suses were taken in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1985 and 1991.

In 1994, SA be­came a demo­cratic coun­try and since then there have been three cen­suses – in 1996, 2001 and 2011.

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