South Africa’s uphill fight against corruption

 ·31 Jan 2023

Transparency International’s 2022 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) paints a discouraging picture for South Africa as the country slips one point in the rankings measuring perceptions of public sector corruption across the globe.

According to Transparency International, South Africa is now ranked 72nd out of 180 countries, with a score of 43 – back to where it was in 2012 with little movement over the past decade.

South Africa shares its position with Benin, Bulgaria, Ghana, and Senegal on the global index.

The international organisation ranks 180 countries and territories worldwide by their perceived levels of public sector corruption, scoring on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean. The average score across all countries is 43, with two-thirds of all surveyed countries scoring 50.

Notably, the index measures perceptions of corruption and not the level of corruption experienced in countries.

“In this regard, perceptions may differ from the current reality in South Africa, where there has been some forward momentum by law enforcement agencies in curbing and combating corruption,” said Karam Singh, executive director of domestic corruption analysts Corruption Watch.

“It is particularly galling the fact that South Africa has slipped a point at a time when there appears to be some momentum in bringing the corrupt to book, following the findings of the Zondo Commission reports,” said Singh.

“It is hardly comforting that we have leaders paying lip service to the anti-corruption agenda in an environment that is not just hostile but extremely dangerous for whistleblowers and those activists seeking to address the huge inequality and injustices wrought by corruption.”

Singh added that whistleblowers and activists in South Africa and the Southern African region, as has been seen too often recently, face real threats to their physical safety and even their lives.

“Part of making a breakthrough in the fight against corruption involves squarely addressing the plight of whistleblowers and providing them with greater protection and support in terms of physical safety, psycho-social support, financial incentives, and legal protections.”

According to Singh, there has been encouraging progress in advancing the implementation of the National Anti-Corruption Strategy with the appointment of the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council towards the end of 2022 – to drive the process forward.

“The appointment of the NACAC gives a faint glimmer of hope at a time when people see very little to be hopeful about,” said Singh.

According to Singh, now is the time for more robust interventions and a vastly accelerated process to get the country to where it needs to be.

Sub-Saharan Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa is the lowest-performing region, with an average score of 32.

According to the index, this is no coincidence; it is one of the least peaceful regions in the world, with corruption spreading across borders.

The gains made by a few countries in the region outweigh significant declines by the majority, reported the index.

Seychelles continues to lead the region with a score of 70, while Botswana (60) and Cabo Verde (60) have made slight progress. Burundi (17), Equatorial Guinea (17), South Sudan (13), and Somalia (12) score the lowest.

While South Africa may have scored above the regional average score, public sector corruption remains a serious – if not endemic – problem, underscored by a series of corruption scandals involving the former and incumbent presidents, which remain doggedly unresolved, reported the index.

South Africa remains in position eight on the regional Sub-Saharan Africa table, along with its three counterparts.

“Alarmingly, there has also been an increase in intimidation and arrests of opposition figures or activists, sometimes under the guise of anti-corruption crackdowns, and enabled by heavily politicised judicial systems or, in the case of South Africa, inadequate and ineffective law enforcement agencies,” Transparency International said.

Rest of the world

The latest index shows a world becoming increasingly dangerous as the links between corruption and global conflict harden.

The recovery from the pandemic, the climate crisis, and growing security threats can be said to be at the root of a new wave of uncertainty and greater instability in the world in general, said Transparency International.

“Leaders can fight corruption and promote peace all at once. Governments must open space to include the public in decision-making – from activists and business owners to marginalised communities and young people. In democratic societies, the people can raise their voices to help root out corruption and demand a safer world for us all.”

The top-performing countries include:

  • Denmark: 90
  • Finland: 87
  • New Zealand: 87
  • Norway: 84
  • Singapore: 83

The bottom-performing countries include:

  • Somalia: 12
  • Syria: 13
  • South Sudan: 12
  • Venezuela:14
  • Yemen: 16

Provided below is a full breakdown of the scores each surveyed country received:

Read: Crime wave warning for South Africa

Show comments
Subscribe to our daily newsletter