The Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) calls on members of the public to refrain from distributing and spreading false information about the organisation’s data collectors.
This follows a series of false Facebook posts and WhatsApp voice messages that have been circulating on social media for the past few weeks, particularly in the Free State, claiming that the HSRC data collectors are either defrauding or robbing communities.
The HSRC’s Acting CEO, Professor Leickness Simbayi, reassured members of the public that there was no truth in the circulating malicious messages.
He emphasised that community members’ safety was the organisation’s priority.
“We, therefore, encourage members of the public to report any suspicious activity to the police or to verify the authenticity of HSRC fieldworkers with the organisation whenever they are in doubt. Our field workers are often identifiable by their HSRC-marked bibs and identity cards,” Simbayi said.
In addition, the vehicles are also marked with various project logos on their doors.
“When our data collectors arrive at different households, they introduce themselves and provide an explanation for their study,” added Simbayi.
Although participation in HSRC surveys is voluntary, the institution said it was important that as many people living in South Africa as possible participate.
According to the HSRC, the data will generate an accurate and credible sample of the target population.
It will also inform the country’s response to various issues such as HIV/AIDS, COVID-19, food and nutrition security and service delivery to ensure lives and livelihoods are continually protected and improved.
The HSRC conducts large-scale, policy-relevant, social-sciences research for public sector users, non-governmental organisations and international development agencies.
Research activities and structures are aligned with South Africa’s national development priorities.
The HSRC is currently conducting several surveys across the country, including the sixth South African HIV Prevalence, Incidence, Behaviour and Communication Survey (SABSSM VI), The South African national survey on health, life experiences, and family relations (SANSHEF) and the National Food and Nutrition Security Survey (NFNSS).
The research institution said former President Nelson Mandela first commissioned the SABSSM VI in 2001. The study is a population-based, cross-sectional survey of households throughout South Africa.
It is conducted to understand the factors driving the HIV epidemic and its dynamics and is used to inform policies and strategies to tackle the epidemic and is repeated approximately every five years.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first round of the survey.
In addition, one important addition to the study year is that a sub-sample of participants will be randomly selected to test for SARS-Cov-2 antibodies and better understand the true impact of SARS-Cov-2 in South Africa.