Political corruption in South Africa

Lodge, Tom
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Many people believe that widespread political corruption exists in South Africa. In a survey published by IDASA in 1996, 46 per cent of the sample consulted felt that most officials were engaged in corruption and only six per cent believed there was clean government. In another poll conducted by the World Value Survey, 15 per cent of the respondents were certain that all public servants were guilty of bribery and corruption and another 30 per cent thought that most officials were venal. The IDASA survey indicated that 41 per cent of the sample felt that public corruption was increasing. Most recently, Transparency International, an international monitoring agency, has reported on a survey which confirms a growing perception among foreign businessmen that official corruption in South Africa is widespread. These perceptions have probably been stimulated by the proliferation of press reportage on corruption as well as debates between national politicians but the evidence concerns perceptions and in itself is an unreliable indicator of the scope or seriousness of the problem except in so far as the existence of such beliefs can encourage corrupt transactions between officials and citizens. In reviewing the South African evidence this paper will attempt to answer four questions. Is the present South African political environment peculiarly susceptible to corruption? Were previous South African administrations especially corrupt? What forms has political corruption assumed since 1994 and how serious has been its incidence? Finally, does modern South African corruption mainly represent habits inherited from the past or is it a manifestation of new kinds of behaviour?
African Studies Seminar series. Paper presented 18 August 1997
Political corruption. South Africa