Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) has urged the public to verify the identities of field workers currently conducting the Census 2021 Mini Test.
"We are requesting that communities please check the credentials of any person who comes to their door. Stats SA field staff are issued with branded identity cards and field gear. Where possible, vehicles are also visibly branded," it said on Friday.
This comes after two Stats SA field workers were mistaken for child traffickers while conducting a survey in Zone 20 of Cape Town's KwaLanga.
The two were attempting to establish contact with a representative of the sampled household for data collection purposes.
"At the time of the incident, the fieldworkers were seen engaging a minor representative of the household leading to the neighbour deducing that something suspicious was taking place, "it said.
The neighbour alerted other residents who gathered around the house and threatened the safety of the field staff.
This led to field workers seeking refuge in one of the nearby houses until police arrived.
Stats SA said the manner in which the incident was handled was regrettable.
"Owing to the nature of surveys we conduct, we continuously engage with communities. We value and understand the importance of trust between the organisation and the communities we collect data from," it said.
The survey got underway in selected areas around the country on Wednesday, 9 October.
The purpose Mini Test is to test data collection methods, questionnaire and operation systems in preparation for the population census that will be conducted in 2021.
Census 2021 will be the first population count to use new methods of data collection that involve the use of digital devices. Fieldworkers will administer the census questionnaire face to face with respondents using the Computer Assisted Personal Interview (CAPI).
In addition, Stats SA is encouraging those who are unsure of the legitimacy of a field worker to contact the Census 2021 toll-free number on 0800 110 248.
"In the event that community members are doubtful of the legitimacy of the person at their door they are encouraged to reach out to the protection services and avoid acts of vigilantism. We wish to reassure our communities that as an organisation, we will do everything in our power to communicate with residents to announce our presence in their areas," it said.
During the course of the Mini Test, field workers will visit households in Buffalo City, Ekurhuleni, Mangaung, Umgungudlovu, Polokwane, Emalahleni, Kimberley, Rustenburg and Cape Town.