A new report published by Corruption Watch (CW) highlights the corruption issues that have plagued municipalities in South Africa for almost a decade.
South Africa is scheduled to hold its sixth municipal election since the end of apartheid towards the end of October 2021.
Should the environment be deemed to be conducive for free and fair elections, the public will go to the polls to elect leaders to occupy positions in the country’s eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities, and 200 local municipalities.
“This will be a significant election, as the novel coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted many communities,” Corruption Watch said.
In its nine years of existence, Corruption Watch said it has received almost 33,000 whistle-blower reports, 16% of which represent allegations of local government corruption. These corruption reports expose the inadequacies of local government structures that fail to deliver basic services to their own communities.
“What is evident in the majority of corruption cases relating to local governance is that South Africa, broadly, has a leadership crisis,” said Melusi Ncala, CW researcher and author of the report.
“Consequently, the hedges of the country’s democracy are unprotected because politicians and administrators alike are serving personal, factional and private interests. Not even a global pandemic could make them pause and think about the people they promised to serve.
“During their frenzy, the hardships experienced by the elderly, unemployed youth, the impoverished men and women, were compounded due to a lack of basic service delivery,” said Ncala.
The report provides an understanding of how corruption manifests at the local level, including the extent to which some municipalities have been captured to serve private interests and are impacted by rampant abuse of power and resources.
Most complaints stem from Gauteng (41%), followed by KwaZulu-Natal (11%), with 8% of reports each coming from Limpopo, Mpumalanga, and the North West.
The highest number of allegations of corruption in local government – a record number of 857 – were received in 2020. Compared to the previous year, there was also a 50% increase in cases stemming from the Eastern Cape, Free State, KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape.
The municipalities most implicated in corruption-related reports constitute major metropolitan municipalities – the City of Johannesburg tops the list with 700 reports, while Ekurhuleni comes in at 354, the City of Tshwane at 325, eThekwini with 166, and City of Cape Town at 125 reports.
The most common forms of corruption at a local level are bribery (28%), procurement irregularities (24%), employment irregularities (11%), abuse of power (9%), and embezzlement of funds (8%).
According to CW, most corruption occurs within the municipal manager’s office, representing 34% of all reports received. The local/metro police are implicated in 30% of the reports, followed by housing and human settlements (10%). These represent the top three hotspots for corruption in local government, according to the report.
Reports also point to nepotism, bribery, and disregard for policies and laws, with implicated officials rarely held accountable.
Corruption Watch said several instances of companies billing double for services, such as in the City of Cape Town. “Furthermore, in the same municipality, it is stated that officials opt to give friends and relatives employment opportunities without following the legislated procedures.”
The report gives credence to the Auditor-General of South Africa’s (AGSA) findings that the eight metropolitan municipalities, 44 district municipalities and estimated 200 local municipalities are, in the main, poorly managed. The latest estimated figure from AGSA for irregular expenditure is R32 billion.
The result of corruption happening within this sphere of government is that the most vulnerable are left destitute or fending for themselves and are again denied their socio-economic rights despite repeated political promises for improved service delivery.
Corruption Watch commends the brave whistle-blowers who chose to expose the self-serving and corrupt actions of people entrusted with municipal duties, thereby highlighting the injustices brought about by such unacceptable abuse of power.
“Now, yet again South Africans will be heading to the polls. Part of the task of electing new leadership has been simplified by the troubling whistle-blower stories documented in this report. The electorate’s remaining duty is to identify, in their own communities, persons with integrity and who are ethical and socially conscience, and elect them to office,” Ncala concluded.
City of Johannesburg
City of Tshwane
Ethekwini Metropolitan Municipality
City of Cape Town