South Africa introduced confidential enquiries into maternal deaths in 1997, and the first report was published in 1998. Subsequently,
six triennial reports have been published, and the seventh was being prepared at the time of submission of this manuscript. This paper
is focused on data from the last 5 years and documents the reduction in maternal deaths since 2009. The main reason for this decline in
maternal deaths has been the success of the antiretroviral treatment programme for HIV-positive women. There has also been a decline
in deaths owing to obstetric haemorrhage, but deaths owing to complications of hypertension remain stubbornly high. There has been
a continuous reduction in potentially preventable maternal deaths since 2008. However, there is still much to do, and efforts need to
concentrate on improving the health system to reduce the deaths owing to haemorrhage and hypertension.