South Africans let down by Ramaphosa, parliament and the police

 ·17 May 2024

Years of widespread corruption across South Africa’s public and private sectors have eroded public trust in the effectiveness and competence of law enforcement agencies, politicians sitting in parliament and the president.

Additionally, there is prevailing skepticism about the effectiveness of the country’s anti-corruption laws and policies, with a call for stricter penalties for corruption.

This was outlined in Corruption Watch’s (CW) recently published The Impact of Corruption: Insights from a Perceptions and Experiences Survey.

CW interviewed a minimum of 1,500 respondents in all nine provinces over a two-month period to gauge their perceptions, characteristics, and experiences of corruption.

“Respondents expressed significant concerns about the impact of corruption,” said CW.


Respondents had less trust in elected and appointed officials than any other groups.

On average, they gave higher ratings for ‘Strongly Untrustful’ and ‘Untrustful’ to organisations such as Chapter 9 and 10 institutions, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the South African Police Service (SAPS), the judiciary, Parliament, and the Presidency than they did to non-elected and appointed officials.

Most respondents were neutral towards Civil Society Organisations and expressed greater trust in media outlets, religious and spiritual institutions, as well as legal and investigative firms to effectively address corruption.

Trust in organisations to address corruption issues (Mean score /100). Source: Corruption Watch

Perceptions of corruption

The survey indicated that nearly two-thirds of respondents lack confidence in law enforcement’s effectiveness against combatting corruption due to perceived inadequacies.

Sufficient law enforcement to combat corruption. Graph: Corruption Watch.

Furthermore, nearly half have low confidence in anti-corruption laws and policies, with nearly a third expressing no confidence at all, while only a fifth feeling confident in the country’s efforts to combat corruption.

However, it is important to note that a majority of respondents (54%) indicated a limited understanding of anticorruption legislation within the South African context, with just over a quarter (27%) reporting a proficient understanding.

Belief that there are adequate anticorruption laws and policies. Source: Corruption Watch

Sixty percent of respondents confident in the country’s corruption laws are well-informed about these laws. In contrast, those lacking confidence often have limited (47%) or no (35%) understanding of such laws, and about 67% of skeptics have a limited understanding of anti-corruption measures.

In general, most respondents, irrespective of gender or location, expressed that “establishments primarily prioritise issues concerning affluent individuals, neglecting the interests of ordinary South African citizens,” said CW.

Groups and areas affected by corruption

Over half of all respondents strongly concurred that corruption exerts pervasive effects across all facets of society.

The respondents said that the groups most profoundly affected by corruption are unemployed youth (75%) closely followed by women and children (70%), individuals living in rural areas (69%), and people with disabilities (68%).

Groups seen as most affected by corruption. Source: Corruption Watch

“Four out of five respondents (81%) believe that the government is not doing enough to address corruption in the provision of basic services,” said CW.

On average, more than 60% of respondents agree/strongly agree that corruption mostly affects the provision of housing and land at (73%), safety and protection of communities (69%), providing quality education (68), access to quality healthcare (67%), the administering of justice by courts (64%), and food security (62%).

Areas affected by corruption. Source: Corruption Watch

Experiences of corruption

A large portion of respondents indicated that they have had first-hand experience and participation with corruption in recent years.

According to the survey, slightly less than a quarter (24%) reported giving a gift or a favour to police officers, car licence officers (23%), and traffic management officials (23%).

Approximately one in 10 gave gifts or favours to prosecutors (12%), elected government representatives (11%), prosecutors (10%) and judges or magistrates at court (9%).

Gifts given to officials. Source: Corruption Watch

Going forward

“It is no longer sufficient or appropriate to speak of good intentions in the anti-corruption discourse,” says Melusi Ncala, CW’s interim head of stakeholder relations and campaigns.

“Without action the fight against corruption lacks meaning for those afflicted by human rights violations and inadequate service delivery because the greed of the corrupt impacts them the most”

“As predicted and warned, the ordinary man and woman have not only lost trust in politicians, but they are distrusting state institutions which are the bedrock of our democracy,” added Ncala.

CW said that the publics sentiment “reflects a clear demand for stricter consequences for corrupt behaviour by government officials.”

“This also underscore the pressing need for government to address corruption in basic service provision, as it directly impacts citizens’ daily lives and well-being. Strengthening penalties for corruption, particularly when it violates fundamental rights and dignity, could serve as a deterrent and enhance the accountability framework,” the group added.

The full report can be accessed here.

Read: Failing to prevent corruption is now a criminal offence in South Africa

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