Statistics South Africa conducted the country’s first post-apartheid population census in October 1996. Exactly five years later, the agency conducted a second population census. This paper compares the two censuses from a field operations perspective. The aim is to help users of the data judge whether particular observed differences between the two censuses are due to real changes in the population or to changes in methodology or quality of the enumeration. The paper describes the overall approach adopted in the two censuses, the questionnaires and topics covered, demarcation and listing, field operation structures and training, the pilots, enumeration procedures, processing, and the post enumeration survey. The paper points to both weaknesses and strengths in the changes effected between the two censuses, and in how they were implemented.