How corrupt is South Africa?

A new index looking at corruption and justice aims gives insight into how people experience rule of law in everyday life – in South Africa and around the world.

The WJP Rule of Law Index 2015 is based on data from 100,000 household and expert surveys in 102 countries and jurisdictions.

“Effective rule of law reduces corruption, combats poverty and disease, and protects people from injustices large and small,” the authors of the index said.

“It is the foundation for communities of peace, opportunity, and equity — underpinning development, accountable government, and respect for fundamental rights.”

The WJP Rule of Law Index 2015 presents a portrait of the rule of law in each country by providing scores and rankings based on eight factors, including Civil Justice, Criminal Justice, and Regulatory Enforcement.

“The Index is the world’s most comprehensive data set of its kind and the only to rely solely on primary data, measuring a nation’s adherence to the rule of law from the perspective of how ordinary people experience it,” WJP said.

Of the 102 countries measured, South Africa ranks 36th, on par with countries including Hungary and Croatia, but far below global leaders, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.

South Africa ranks third in Africa, below Botswana and Ghana, which rank 31st and 34, respectively.

Top 20 countries

# Country Score
1 Denmark 0.87
2 Norway 0.87
3 Sweden 0.85
4 Finland 0.85
5 Netherlands 0.83
6 New Zealand 0.83
7 Austria 0.82
8 Germany 0.81
9 Singapore 0.81
10 Australia 0.80
11 Republic of Korea 0.79
12 United Kingdom 0.78
13 Japan 0.78
14 Canada 0.78
15 Estonia 0.77
16 Belgium 0.77
17 Hong Kong 0.76
18 France 0.74
19 United states 0.73
20 Czech Republic 0.72
36 South Africa 0.58

Below is a more detailed breakdown of how South Africa ranks in each indicator.

Constraints on government powers – 40th

The Constraints on government powers indicator measures the effectiveness of the institutional checks on government power by the legislature, the judiciary, and independent auditing and review agencies.

South Africa scored highly for its independent government watch-dogs, but scored low for its capacity to impose sanctions for official government misconduct.

Absence of Corruption – 42nd

The Absence of Corruption indicator measures the degree of corruption in government, and considers three forms of corruption: bribery, improper influence by public or private interests, and misappropriation of public funds or other resources.

South Africa’s average performance in this indicator was highlighted by being better at keeping corruption out of the judiciary than keeping corruption out of the legislature – one of the weakest ratings overall.

Open government – 27th

The Open government indicator measures whether basic laws and information in legal rights are publicized, and assesses the quality of information published by the government.

Overall South Africa rated well for its civic participation in government, but came up lacking in the way government publicized laws and other government data.

Fundamental Rights – 39th

The Fundamental Rights indicator measures the protection of human rights, including the right to life and security, freedom of belief and expression, freedom of assembly and association as well as labour rights, among others.

South Africa performed fairly strongly in this indicator, above average across all points except for the due process of the law in the country. Freedom of expression, religion and association were the strongest factors.

Order and Security – 81st

The Order and Security indicator measures various threats to order and security including conventional crime, political violence, and violence as a means to redress personal grievances

While South Africa scored top marks for the absence of civil conflict, high crime rates and violence knocked it down to 81st out of 102 countries.

Regulatory Enforcement – 33rd

The Regulatory Enforcement measures the extent to which regulations are effectively implemented and enforced without improper influence by public officials or private interests.

South Africa had an above average performance across all factors in this indicator, but dropped the ball by having unreasonable delays in regulatory processes.

Civil Justice – 39th

The Civil Justice indicator measures whether civil justice systems are accessible and affordable, free of discrimination, corruption, and improper influence by public officials.

South Africa scored well for having a civil justice system with low levels of corruption and government influence – but was dragged down for high costs and discrimination, which were both below average.

Criminal Justice – 38th

The Criminal Justice indicator measures whether the criminal investigation, adjudication, and correctional systems are effective, and impartial, free of corruption, free of improper influence, and protective of due process and the rights of the accused.

South Africa’s average performance in this indicator was marred by an ineffective correctional system, and taking too long to be processed in the system.

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How corrupt is South Africa?