Corruption and democracy in South Africa

 ·29 Jan 2019

Transparency International has released its Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) for 2018.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of corruption in the public sector, according to experts and business people.

The ranking uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is considered to be highly corrupt and 100 is considered to be honest and transparent.

This year, New Zealand and Denmark rank highest with scores of 89 and 88 respectively. Syria, South Sudan and Somalia rank lowest with scores of 14, 12 and 9 respectively.

The best performing region is Western Europe with an average score of 66.

The worst performing regions are Sub-Saharan Africa (average score 32) and Eastern Europe and Central Asia (average score 34).

South Africa

South Africa has seen endured large scale bribery, fraud and corruption scandals over the past two years.

High-ranking officials across government, including former president Jacob Zuma, have been implicated in state capture through the Gupta family, where influence and kick-backs were used to score multi-billion rand government contracts, and to allegedly influence government appointments.

In recent months, testimony before the state capture commission – which was established in the wake of the scandal – revealed that the bribery and corruption extended well beyond just the Gupta family, with high-profile officials and politicians again being implicated.

Despite Sub-Saharan Africa’s low score, South Africa was one of the highest-ranking countries in the region with a score of 43. The move to establish the state capture commission and launch investigations into the matter was seen as a positive move.

However this score is still below the 50 mark which shows that the country clearly needs to intensify its efforts to make serious inroads against corruption, according to David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch.

“Our experience of state capture is a textbook example of the relationship between corruption and the undermining of democracy,” he said.

“For example, we have seen how in order to loot public funds, the perpetrators have had to undermine those key pillars of democracy that are responsible for holding those in power to account.

“The undermining of Parliament and the criminal justice institutions are key cases in point.

“On the other hand, we have also seen how institutions that reflect the strength of our democracy such as civil society organisations, the media and the courts have been critical features of the fightback against state capture.”

South Africa ranked 73 out of the 180 countries and territories assessed – down from 71st in the 2017 index. The country’s corruption score was unchanged.

Lewis added that the position of the BRICS countries is particularly discouraging, as four of the five members (India being the exception) have fared worse than last year, or showed no change.

“South Africa, with the score of 43 out of 100 and a rank of 73 out of 180 countries, is still ahead of its BRICS counterparts,” he said.

“India has risen slightly to a score of 41, pushing its rank to 78, while Brazil has dropped to 35 (rank 105), China sits at 39 (rank 87), and Russia at 28 (rank 138).”

Read: 28 things Dawie Roodt would change in South Africa if he were president

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