Corruption in South Africa – nobody cares

More than two-thirds of countries – along with many of the world’s most advanced economies – are stagnating or showing signs of backsliding in their anti-corruption efforts, according to the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) published by Transparency International.

Countries in which elections and political party financing are open to undue influence from vested interests are less able to combat corruption, analysis of the results finds.

“Frustration with government corruption and lack of trust in institutions speaks to a need for greater political integrity,” said Delia Ferreira Rubio, chair of Transparency International. “Governments must urgently address the corrupting role of big money in political party financing and the undue influence it exerts on our political systems.”

The CPI ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, drawing on 13 expert assessments and surveys of business executives. It uses a scale of zero (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

More than two-thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of only 43. Since 2012, only 22 countries have significantly improved their scores, including Estonia, Greece and Guyana. Twenty-one have significantly declined, including Australia, Canada and Nicaragua.

The research shows several of the most advanced economies cannot afford to be complacent if they are to keep up their anti-corruption momentum. Four G7 countries score lower than last year: Canada (-4), France (-3), the UK (-3) and the US (-2). Germany and Japan have seen no improvement, while Italy gained one point.

Corruption and political integrity

Analysis shows that countries that perform well on the CPI also have stronger enforcement of campaign finance regulations and broader range of political consultation.

Countries where campaign finance regulations are comprehensive and systematically enforced have an average score of 70 on the CPI, whereas countries where such regulations either don’t exist or are poorly enforced score an average of just 34 and 35 respectively.

“The lack of real progress against corruption in most countries is disappointing and has profound negative effects on citizens around the world,” said Patricia Moreira, MD of Transparency International. “To have any chance of ending corruption and improving peoples’ lives, we must tackle the relationship between politics and big money. All citizens must be represented in decision making.”

Countries with broader and more open consultation processes score an average of 61 on the CPI. By contrast, where there is little to no consultation, the average score is just 32.

A vast majority of countries that significantly decreased their CPI scores since 2012 do not engage the most relevant political, social and business actors in political decision-making.


The top countries are New Zealand and Denmark, with scores of 87 each, followed by Finland (86), Singapore (85), Sweden (85) and Switzerland (85).

The bottom countries are Somalia, South Sudan and Syria with scores of 9, 12 and 13, respectively. These countries are closely followed by Yemen (15), Venezuela (16), Sudan (16), Equatorial Guinea (16) and Afghanistan (16).

South Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-ranked region on the CPI, with an average of 32, and its performance paints a grim picture of inaction against corruption.

With a score of 66, Seychelles obtained the highest score in the region, followed by Botswana (61), Cape Verde (58), Rwanda (53) and Mauritius (52). At the bottom of the index are Somalia (9), South Sudan (12), Sudan (16) and Equatorial Guinea (16).

South Africa is ranked 70th, with 44 points. The country has remained stable in the rankings over the several years, having accumulated 43 points in both 2017, and 2018, 45 points in 2016, and 44 points in 2015.

South Africa, like many other countries, have showed no progress or movement when it comes to dealing with corruption, despite almost two years of promises.

A year ago, president Cyril Ramaphosa promised to take action against against corruption having referred to the period under former president Jacob Zuma as “the lost decade”, marred by corruption allegations, nepotism, and ‘state capture’.

A State Capture Commission of Inquiry was set up in August 2018. To date, the commission has sat for more than 190 days and heard evidence from over 150 witnesses. The transcript of the evidence that has been led and recorded consists of more than 27,000 pages, with exhibits of more than 450,000 pages.

Similarly, a number of business in the private sector have taken enormous reputational knocks over allegations of corruption including Steinhoff, EOH, Tongaat Hulett, auditing firm, KPMG, consultancy McKinsey & Company, and German software giant SAP.

Ramaphosa said this week that the most pressing challenge for government, is the need to build a capable state.

The president on Monday (20 January), penned his weekly open letter to the public titled ‘From the desk of the President’. The letter is aimed at discussing some of the issues that interest and concern South Africans, and talking about the work government is doing to tackle these issues.

He said that a capable state starts with the people who work in it. He said that officials and managers must possess the right financial and technical skills and other expertise.

“We are committed to end the practice of poorly qualified individuals being parachuted into positions of authority through political patronage. There should be consequences for all those in the public service who do not do their work.”

To reduce corruption and restore trust in politics, Transparency International recommends that governments:

  • Reinforce checks and balances and promote separation of powers.
  • Tackle preferential treatment to ensure budgets and public services aren’t driven by personal connections or biased towards special interests;
  • Control political financing to prevent excessive money and influence in politics;
  • Manage conflicts of interest and address “revolving doors”;
  • Regulate lobbying activities by promoting open and meaningful access to decision-making;
  • Strengthen electoral integrity and prevent and sanction misinformation campaigns;
  • Empower citizens and protect activists, whistleblowers and journalists.

Read: Ramaphosa wants to end political patronage in South Africa

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Corruption in South Africa – nobody cares