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South Africa is no stranger to corruption. But while President Cyril Ramaphosa might view himself as an anti-corruption leader, a new poll by Afrobarometer shows that South Africans perceive corruption as increasing under his rule.
New Afrobarometer survey findings from 2021 mirror the headlines: Not only do South Africans believe that corruption is getting worse, but they also see large portions of elected officials and civil servants as involved in corrupt activities.
Society says the government is mishandling the anti-corruption fight. While channels to report corruption are increasingly seen as unsafe.
The Afrobarometer team in South Africa, led by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation and 94 Research, interviewed 1,600 adult South Africans in May-June 2021.
Key findings include:
- Almost two-thirds (64%) of South Africans say that corruption increased in the past year, including half (49%) who believe it increased “a lot.”
- Seven in 10 South Africans (70%) say the government is performing “fairly badly” or “very badly” in the fight against corruption.
- Three out of four South Africans (76%) say people risk retaliation or other negative consequences if they report incidents of corruption, a 13-percentage-point increase compared to 2018.
- Seven in 10 citizens (71%) believe that officials who break the law “often” or “always” go unpunished, while half (49%) say ordinary people who commit crimes enjoy such impunity.
When looking at who is involved in corruption, Afrobarometer found that despite a particular emphasis on anti-corruption efforts focusing on the Presidency, more than half (53%) of South Africans believe that “most” or “all” officials in the Presidency are involved in corruption.
Among 10 other institutions that Afrobarometer asked about, only the South African Police Services (SAPS) are more widely seen as corrupt (by 56% of respondents).
In addition, about one-third of citizens see “some” officials in the Presidency (33%) and the SAPS (36%) as corrupt.
Here is the full graph of how South African’s perceive leaders’ involvement in corruption:
But how do South Africans perceive the government’s performance in fighting corruption?
Afrobarometer states that central to anti-corruption efforts is how the government implements the measures it has set in place to deal with and prevent incidents of corruption. “In light of South Africans’ perceptions that corruption is increasing, it is not surprising that they also believe that the government is not enforcing its anti-corruption measures well,” says the survey research network.
Here is the Afrobarometer’s graph on how South Africans feel that the government is fairing in the fight against corruption:
When it comes to bribery, it is evident that corruption exists within state institutions and between citizens and the state.
The question now stands: How willing are South Africans to pay a bribe to access state services? And how safe do they feel in reporting corruption?
Among respondents who say they interacted with key public services during the 12 months preceding the survey, one in four (24%) say they paid a bribe “once or twice”, “a few times,” or “often” to avoid a problem with the police.
In addition, 15% say they paid a bribe to obtain police assistance, a 5-percentage-point increase compared to 2018.
The share of South Africans who paid a bribe to obtain a government document, such as an identity document, a license, or a passport, increased substantially compared to 2018, from 13% to 21%.
About one in 10 respondents report paying a bribe to obtain public school services (10%) or medical care (8%).
Here is the full graph of the findings in bribery:
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