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A survey by the global coalition against corruption, Transparency International, has found that corruption and bribery are getting worse in southern Africa.

The survey, Daily Lives and Corruption, Public Opinion in Southern Africa notes that 56% of people reported paying a bribe in the past 12 months and 62% of people felt that corruption in their country had increased in the past three years.

This report highlights the frequency of reports of bribery in different institutions and sectors, as well as probes the reasons people paid bribes. It also examines how willing people are to get involved in the fight against corruption.

Citizens from six southern African countries were interviewed for the survey between 2010 and 2011 – South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In four countries, people said they paid bribes to speed up services; in South Africa and DRC more bribes were paid to avoid problems with the authorities.

The survey consulted more than 6 000 people across the region about their opinions on a number of public services, including the police, judiciary, customs, registry and permit services, land services, medical services, tax revenues, utilities and education.

The key findings were:

  • 56% of people reported paying a bribe in the past 12 months;

  • 62% of people felt corruption in their country had increased over the past three years;

  • The police were perceived to be the most corrupt institution across all countries;

  • The government was the most trusted institution to fight corruption; and

  • 80% of people could imagine themselves getting involved in the fight against corruption.

In South Africa, Topline Research Solutions interviewed 1 000 people in urban centres between 17 June and 14 July 2010. The results showed that 42,6% of respondents believed corruption in the country had “increased a lot” while 4% felt it had “decreased a lot”.

Assessing the government’s actions in fighting corruption, 16,4% said they were “very effective” and 27,6% noted they were “somewhat effective”. However, 27,9% felt that government actions were “very ineffective”.

Asked who they most trusted to fight corruption, 39,5% of respondents listed their government leaders, followed by 16,8% identifying business and the private sector.

When asked which institutions were perceived to be the most corrupt, 67,9% answered the police. Political parties took second place at 48,6%, and parliament and the legislature secured third place at 43,7%.

The survey also questioned people about their personal experiences of bribery. “When bribes are taken for the provision of public services, they discriminate against those who cannot afford to pay them and affect the quality of the service provided to those who can,” it reported.

“It is not only the bribe-payers that suffer from bribery, but it also has a long lasting effect on the integrity of processes and personnel involved in the provision of these services and thereby undermines public trust in democratic governance as such.”

In South Africa, the report noted, bribes were mostly paid for two core services – the police (43,4%), and registry and permit services (39,3%). It also noted that of those who had paid a bribe in the previous year, about two-thirds were paid to “avoid problems with the authorities”.

Also forming part of the survey was a measure of how willing people were to get involved in the fight against corruption. Some 76% of people in southern Africa agreed that ordinary people could make a difference to the fight against corruption. In South Africa, this figure was higher, at 80%.

Asked whether they would report an incident of corruption, more than 60% said they would.


South Africans, along with citizens from other sub-Saharan countries, believe the police are the most corrupt institution.