To be sure, if South Africa is to tackle the many ills that afflict it and thrive socially and economically, corruption needs to be combatted much more successfully than is currently the case. A comparison of any development and corruption indices proves an indelible correlation between the levels of corruption in a given country and the well-being of its citizens. The more corrupt a country is, the poorer, sicker, underdeveloped and unsuccessful its people are. Lower levels of corruption are tied to higher levels of advancement, better mortality rates and a higher quality of life. If left unchecked, corruption erodes public confidence in the country’s institutions as well as investor confidence, poisons the business climate and fosters despair. It menaces the very survival of the state.
It should therefore be a great cause for concern that South Africa’s 2014 rating in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index was an unsatisfactory 44 out of 100 (with 0 indicating a perception that a country is highly corrupt). South Africa ranked 67th out of 175 countries – with Denmark claiming top spot as the least corrupt country and Somalia and North Korea having the dubious honour of sharing the 174th position. Although South Africa is not in the bottom half, it finds itself in disreputable company in this index. Other less-developed African countries such as Namibia, Ghana, Lesotho and Rwanda achieved better scores than South Africa. The 2013 Afrobarometer report on corruption in Africa showed corruption increased considerably in South Africa between 2002 and 2012. Moreover, exactly half of the South African respondents said most or all of their government officials are corrupt. Quantifying the exact extent of graft in a given country is a notoriously difficult exercise, but according to the Institute of Internal Auditors of South Africa R700 million was lost due to corruption during the two decades following the dawn of democracy.
There are a myriad of definitions for corruption, but in this report the following simple yet comprehensive Oxford Dictionaries definition will apply: “Dishonest or fraudulent conduct by those in power, typically involving bribery.” With this definition as a guide and drawing on various media sources and indices, ten case studies will be analysed. In tenth place is the infamous Nkandla debacle whilst nine other institutions or cases outrank it in terms of the scale, seriousness and pervasiveness of their corruption.