Ramaphosa defends his graft-busting record as survey shows South Africans believe corruption is on the rise

A recent survey has revealed many South Africans think corruption has grown worse during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenure.
A recent survey has revealed many South Africans think corruption has grown worse during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tenure.
Image: Filip Singer - Pool/Getty Images

President Cyril Ramaphosa has defended his record as a graft-buster in the face of a report that indicated that most South Africans believed corruption worsened in the past year.

An Afrobarometer survey found that nearly half (49%) of South Africans believed that corruption increased “a lot” in the last year.

The organisation asked 1,600 adult South Africans between May and June this year whether, in their opinion, the “level of corruption in this country increased, decreased, or stayed the same” over the past year.

“Almost two-thirds (64%) of South Africans say that corruption increased in the past year, including half (49%) who believe it increased 'a lot'," the report states.

Other findings included that state institutions are “widely seen as corrupt” - with half or more of citizens saying “most” or “all” officials are involved in corruption in the police (56%), the president’s office (53%), local government councils (51%), and parliament (50%).

And seven in 10 South Africans (70%) say the government is performing “fairly badly” or “very badly” in the fight against corruption, the report states.

In a statement late on Friday night, the presidency said it noted reports on the Afrobarometer survey.

“The results of the survey no doubt reflect the lived experiences of many South Africans who continue to encounter corruption in various forms. This could be in accessing front-line government services or businesses seeking procurement opportunities with the state. Corruption, whether large or small, remains one of the greatest challenges facing our country, holding back economic growth and social development. Corruption robs citizens both directly and indirectly, and undermines confidence in the institutions that are supposed to serve them,” the statement read.

However, it added that it believed the perception of the levels of corruption was because of “the prominence of specific cases of corruption in the public space”.

“This is due in large part to the work done by the media in uncovering and reporting on allegations of corruption, and the progress being made by law enforcement agencies in detecting corruption and prosecuting those alleged to be responsible.

“Evidence presented at the judicial commission of inquiry into allegations of state capture and in the country’s courts have exposed criminal transactions on a massive scale between public servants, parties in the private sector and individual citizens,” the presidency said.

But Ramaphosa also used the statement to defend his role in busting corruption.

This included, the statement read:

  • Boards and executive management in several captured SOEs have been replaced with competent, credible people, with this new leadership halting “corrupt practices, initiated disciplinary and criminal actions against people alleged to be involved in corruption, and have recovered large sums of money irregularly spent”;
  • A commission of inquiry into Sars was instituted, which found severe governance and operational failures;
  • New leadership was appointed at the Hawks, “which has restored credibility and stability and led to tangible action against alleged corruption”;
  • A high-level panel on the State Security Agency was appointed towards rebuilding and restoring integrity of intelligence services, which made several recommendations to end corruption and politicisation;
  • The Mpati commission of inquiry into allegations of impropriety at the Public Investment Corporation was established, whose findings and recommendations have led to remedial measures being instituted at the PIC.
  • A new national director of public prosecutions was appointed, which “has had a great effect on the functioning and credibility of the NPA”;
  • The SIU Special Tribunal was appointed to expedite civil claims against corrupt individuals and the recovery of stolen funds;
  • The NPA Investigating Directorate was established to focus on prosecution of state capture and other significant corruption cases;
  • A health sector anti-corruption forum was launched as a multi-stakeholder body to identify, investigate and prosecute corruption in the health sector;
  • The Zondo commission regulations were amended to enable sharing of information and resources with the NPA;
  • In response to allegations of corruption in Covid-19 related procurement, a fusion centre was established to strengthen the collective efforts among nine law enforcement agencies to prevent, detect, investigate and prosecute coronavirus-related corruption; and
  • The Special Investigating Unit was authorised to probe any allegations relating to the misuse of Covid-19 funds, resulting in cases worth R1.4bn being referred to the Special Tribunal, 148 individuals and entities referred to the NPA for possible criminal action, 127 government officials referred for disciplinary action and three political office bearers for executive action.

“While there is much more work that needs to be done to fight corruption, particularly the kind of corruption that impacts directly on people’s lives, there is clear evidence that after years of impunity progress is being made in bringing those responsible to account. Just as importantly, there is real progress in strengthening the institutions responsible for fighting corruption and other public bodies that have been badly damaged by corruption,” the presidency said.

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