Corruption in South Africa


It has become a sad fact – every day on the news there is a new story about corruption by government officials in South Africa.

Recently, even the beloved Minister of Health, Zweli Mkhize, who had been praised for his handling of the coronavirus pandemic in the early stages, has been embroiled in allegations and investigations into inconsistencies regarding contracts between the Department of Health and a service provider, Digital Vibes. The constant inundation with such stories means that South Africa now ranks 69th out of 180 countries worldwide with a score of 44/100 in 2020 for the Corruption Perceptions Index published by Transparency International. This cannot be good news for the health of the economy and for ordinary South Africans alike.

Figure 1: The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be. A country or territory’s rank indicates its position relative to the other countries and territories in the index


Figure 2: The Corruption Perceptions Index ranks countries and territories based on how corrupt their public sector is perceived to be.
–        A country or territory’s score indicates the perceived level of public sector corruption on a scale of 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

Therefore, South Africa is clearly not ranked very highly on the ladder. The corruption problem has grown to such a level that, even in the midst of a pandemic, funds that were meant to help tackle the virus and alleviate its effect on the population and businesses were misappropriated. At a time when the people of this country are facing life and death issues, it is quite disturbing how unscrupulous these people can be, adding to the general suffering.

The issue of corruption has huge repercussions for the economy, ranging from fiscal issues, such as misappropriation of government allocated funds, all the way through to socio-economic issues, such as worsening of unemployment and problematic service delivery to communities, all the way to the political instability caused by the lack of confidence in the government’s ability to deliver on the country’s needs.


In the 2021 budget speech, Government spending grew to a record of 41.7% of GDP, which is in stark contrast to the 29.6% recorded during the financial crisis of 2009. This spending, however, has not equated to economic growth over the years and it is difficult to measure how much of a role corruption has played in this but there definitely is.

Unemployment has also increased greatly in the past few years, with it being recorded most recently at 32.6% and, to combat this, the government has to apportion funds to programs that would alleviate the issue. However, even such programs are not far from reach of corrupt forces, a recent example being the alleged looting of close to R6 million from the COVID-19 relief fund in 2020. Another disturbing story where programs aimed at alleviating poverty were pocketed by corrupt officials.  Corruption is thus a huge crutch in the fight to improve the South African economy and to improve the lives of the population at large.

There are so many issues facing South Africa that need to be addressed as a matter of urgency but it continuously seems as though, for these problems to be addressed effectively, the ‘small’ matter of corruption has to be removed from the equation.

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