News / Africa

Half of South Africans Paid Bribes in 2012

Nearly half of South Africans paid a bribe in 2012 to get an essential service. The world average is around 25 percent.  In terms of levels of corruption, the global watchdog Transparency International rates South Africa in the same tier as countries like Afghanistan.

In its annual international report released this month, Transparency International found that 47 percent of South Africans said they paid a bribe in 2012.

"Corruption thrives when there's an absence of public accountability, where the levels of transparency in governance are lacking and where a culture of impunity takes root," said Paul Hoffman, director of the Institute for Accountability in Southern Africa, admitting he is not surprised.  "And all three of those factors are available in abundance in South Africa."

Hoffman said the country loses about 30 billion rand - or about $3 billion  - in public funds each year to corruption.

There are frequent stories on corruption in the news in South Africa.  President Jacob Zuma has come under fire for spending nearly $30 million on security improvements to his private residence.  In 2011-2012, the auditor general found that half of government contracts in the Free State, a province in South Africa, had been awarded to politicians and their families.
 
David Lewis, the executive director of Corruption Watch, a non-profit organization launched in South Africa in 2012, said there is a lack of oversight.

"There is plenty of vulnerability in the system for those who would abuse it, to take advantage of it.  And it’s one of the things we are beginning to recognize which I think makes combating corruption so difficult is that around every public sector resource there are sort of interests clustered who are living off them… sometimes living quite, relatively speaking, quite elaborately off them," he said. "So these are difficult to tackle."
 
The Transparency International survey spoke with 1,000 people in South Africa, asking respondents to rate each institution, in which perceived corruption was based on a scale of 1-5. One is the least corrupt, five is the most.

Police got the highest corruption score, 4.4.  South Africans gave a rating of 4.2 to political parties, 4.0 to the legislature and 4.1 for public officials/civil servants.   

Corruption Watch said those results are similar to its research which shows the police and education sectors are the most corrupt.  Lewis says it is not surprising since these two entities have the most direct contact with the public.

"I guess the sort of classic definition of corruption is that it’s an abuse of public resources and public power for private gain, and I guess the police just have more public power than the average sort of public official has so a greater ability to abuse that. Our focus on education has been on schools particularly," explained Lewis. "And again I think these are institutions in communities, often in poor communities where there is very poor oversight.  Each school is kind of like a small business - it has a budget of some size, it has resources of some size."

South Africa is responding to the report with a variety of new initiatives to combat graft.

Lindiwe Sisulu, the public service and administration minister, announced that the government will create a new anti-corruption bureau and her department will be lobbying for more anti-corruption legislation.

The South African Police Service announced it will launch a new anti-corruption wing despite expressing some skepticism about Transparency International’s survey.

"Some of the media reports, well most of them, they put a lot of emphasis on the police who are being corrupted. They forget that there is an equal responsibility on the person that is doing the corrupting," noted Lt. Gen. Solomon Makgale, with the South African Police Service.

But he does acknowledge the police service must clean up its house.

"What is important for us is that corruption is a reality in South Africa, corruption is a reality within the South African Police Service, and the national commissioner has made it very clear that this needs to be dealt with," Makgale said. "Firstly, by forming an anti-corruption unit which will focus exclusively on addressing criminality within the South African Police Service."

For anti-corruption lobbyists like Paul Hoffman, these efforts will only be effective if given some power of enforcement and are insulated from politics.

"They won't persuade me that they are serious about corruption until such time as a body that is specialized, trained, independent, properly resourced, and whose membership has security of tenure of office exists.  We do not have a body that has any of those attributes." he said.

The South African Police Service will launch its new anti-corruption unit within the next six months.

You May Like

Philippines, Muslim Rebels Try to Salvage Peace Pact

Peace process faces major setback after botched military operation to find terrorists results in bloody gunbattle between government forces, Moro Islamic Liberation Front fighters More

Republicans Expect Long, Expensive Presidential Battle

Political strategist says eventual winner will be one who can put together strongest coalition of various conservative groups that make up Republican Party More

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Engineers have come up with a lever-operated design that makes use of easily accessible bicycle technology More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More