Launching its campaign on 23 April 2012, Corruption Watch revealed that in 2010 one in four Johannesburg drivers was asked for a bribe by the metro’s traffic officers – a total of 150 000 drivers during a single year. The figures come from a Statistics SA 2010 survey.
“Bribery is a major problem in South Africa,” says Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis.
“Bribery is the most common form of corruption that takes place in South Africa and elsewhere in the world. Bribery of traffic officers is the most common reported instance in South Africa; that is the reason we’ve started with this campaign.”
The organisation’s “no more tjo-tjo” campaign encourages the public to report bribery on the roads. This is the first of many campaigns to identify corruption hotspots around the country.
Corruption Watch has produced a report called The Law for Sale, which highlights experiences of road users in encounters with members of the Johannesburg Metro Police Department (JMPD).
The 2010 statistics reveal that Johannesburg drivers were the most vulnerable to bribery than in any other South African city.
However, Lewis pointed out that the campaign’s focus was much broader than Johannesburg.
The “no more tjo-tjo” campaign is not intended to humiliate the JMPD, says Lewis, adding, however, that “if the issue is not tackled, more incidents will continue to take place on our roads”.
Corruption Watch notes that it has received many reports of traffic policing corruption from other metros, as well as from small towns and from the provincial traffic police.
“We often hear the excuse that the public is responsible for offering bribes to traffic officers, but we look up to law enforcement officers to be accountable and exemplary in their behaviour.”
The Law for Sale report looked at a variety of Johannesburg road users, ranging from ordinary car users to taxi drivers.
“Taxi drivers are the number-one target of traffic officers, especially during prime time and month ends.”
Bribes ranged from R40 to R200 on average.
This culture of demanding bribes had a knock-on effect as taxi drivers then did not see the point of obeying the law. Furthermore, paying “tjo-tjo” is seen as cheaper than paying a fine.
“Traffic officers have developed a tendency of concentrating in certain areas where they know that chances of receiving bribes are very high. Areas such as Yeoville, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, night clubs and high-income-earning residential areas are the most targeted.”
Lewis says the ‘no more tjo-tjo’ campaign has three principle objectives:
- to generate and channel the outrage most ordinary people have experienced with regard to bribery;
- to hold accountable those in leadership – both in local government and the traffic police departments; and
- to educate the public about their rights and responsibilities when dealing with traffic authorities.
Corruption Watch, along with Lead SA, has put together an information card to warn people that bribery is a crime and to educate drivers about what their rights are on the road.
The organisation has also made several recommendations, including urging the City of Johannesburg and the JMPD to acknowledge the magnitude of the problem and take responsibility in addressing corruption.
“The report criticises the JMPD for being in denial about the extent of corruption within its force. The sheer scale of the problem is massive,” says Lewis.
Corruption Watch also recommended that officers be easily identifiable.
The organisation called for confidentiality for those wanting to report corruption, the use of sting operations to identify corrupt officials, and public campaigns reminding all that corruption is a crime.