IJR Policy Brief No 2 on Corruption in South Africa: An alternative interpretation for the case of the Police Service
By Lucia Tiscornia
Date of publication: November 2011
Only available electronically
When it comes to corruption, there is no North-South divide. Neither is it a problem of the centre versus the periphery, or the poor versus the rich. In many accounts, it is presented as a global malaise that thrives as a result of weak institutional arrangements that allow enough room for manoeuvre on the verge of illegality. South Africa, despite the apparent increase in corruption coverage, is not an exception. With increasing frequency, the media, NGOs and academia are drawing attention to the pervasiveness of corruption across society. They highlight the illicit or illegitimate activities of public officials, point to the threat that corruption poses to the creation of a healthy democracy, and present analyses of potential causes and remedies. Its increasing prominence on the national agenda has coincided in recent years with the escalation of protests (often violent) demanding improved quality and quantity of public services. It does not require an expert to connect the dots: when practices that allow the inappropriate use of public funds are entrenched, it becomes a structural impediment to socio-economic and political inclusion, and threatens the consolidation of democratic practice in the longer term.
Given the issues highlighted in the recent Public Protector reports on the procurement of offices for the South African Police Service (SAPS) and subsequent repercussions, this paper takes its cue from the saga to shed light on the questions of what corruption is, its effects in terms of institutional performance and its implications for governance, considering the broader socio-political context and how it affects the very notion and practice of corruption.