Publication: Business Day Issued: Date: 2004-03-23 Reporter: Robyn Chalmers

Corruption Worse than Before 1994'



Business Day

Date 2004-03-23


Robyn Chalmers

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Research suggests the public's views of graft have changed little over five years.

These and other indicators emerged from a survey into perceptions of corruption levels carried out towards the end of last year for Business Day's barometer by research house ACNielsen.

Questions were put to 2479 urban adults countrywide.

Asked about encounters with corruption over the past three years, 12% of urban adults in SA claim to have been actual or potential victims of corrupt activity themselves, 9% know of workplace corruption affecting one or more of their work colleagues, and 15% know of corruption that affected or was meant to affect someone in their family or social circle.

In a similar survey carried out for Business Day in 1997 by ACNielsen, comparable figures were 12%, 13% and 18%, suggesting that the perception of day-to-day corruption has dropped a little over the intervening period.

The coloured community is most conscious of corruption affecting daily life, with 17% having encountering corruption personally, 10% aware of it in their workplace and 25% knowing family and friends it has affected.

White people are next most conscious, with claimed incidences of 15%, 13% and 15%; their "workplace" figure is significantly higher than other groups.

Black awareness is lower, with only "family and friends" being targeted at levels similar to other groups: 10%, 8% and 15%.

The social fabric is perceived as most deeply stained with corruption in the areas of government and public service.

Seven groups were put to the respondents politicians, provincial government, local government employees, police, headmen, chiefs and tribal authorities, business people and religious groups and churches.

Two-thirds of all urban adults believe that the first four of these groupings are more corrupt now than they were before 1994.

All demographic groups in urban society believe that corruption was worse last year than it was before 1994, though they differ over how much worse.

Black and to some extent coloured respondents are rather less pessimistic than Indians or whites. Hence 62% of blacks and 65% of coloureds believe today's politicians are "much more" or "slightly more" corrupt than those in power before 1994, whereas the figures for Indians and whites are 83% and 77% respectively.

Provincial governments are also seen as more corrupt than before. However, the pattern breaks when corruption among police is judged: Black (65%) and coloureds (63%) express a view similar to whites (65%), with Indians far more pessimistic at 74%.

Business people are felt to have grown more corrupt by 44% of urban adults overall. Headmen, chiefs and tribal authorities have a better image: overall 28% think they are more corrupt than pre-1994, with this figure highest among whites (40%) and lowest (23%) among blacks but 27% say they have no idea.

The most favourable attitude is reserved for religious groups and churches, where more people think they are less corrupt nowadays (23%) than think otherwise (21%).

However, the survey does reveal differences between the groups in how politicians should respond to accusations and even proof of corruption.

The survey focuses on the bribery controversy around Deputy President Jacob Zuma.

Black respondents adopt a broadly pragmatic stance, with the largest group (48%) saying he should resign only if, and when, the allegations against him are proved. While 19% think he should resign now to save unsettling government further, 20% think he should stay on even if found guilty, because government needs his skills.

White respondents, in contrast, tended to put principle before pragmatism, with 53% believing he should resign now.

Coloured and Indian adults sit between these two extremes, more evenly balanced between "resign now" and "wait for the verdict", but very few (6% of coloureds, 2% of Indians) would want him to stay on if the allegations are proved.

Support or forgiveness? for Zuma if found guilty is significantly higher among younger adults (16% of the 16 to 34 bracket) than among older people (11% of adults 35 and over).

The survey shows, overall, that much hard work needs to be done by politicians and indeed, by police and bureaucrats to correct the public's unflattering view of their integrity.

It is clear, too, that business people cannot afford to ignore this aspect of their public image.

Edited by Robyn Chalmers

With acknowledgements to Robyn Chalmers and the Business Day.