Ordinary South Africans have not lost their moral compass, survey shows

The second South African Citizen’s Bribery Survey, conducted by The Ethics Institute and sponsored by Massmart, asked among other things whether respondents had ever said no to paying a bribe. The results show that half of respondents have never been asked for a bribe, while 60% of those who have been asked have declined to pay at some point – mostly for moral or religious reasons.

Other key findings include:
• 1 in 5 people know someone who paid a bribe in the last year;
• Over half of bribes are for road related matters (i.e. traffic fines + drivers’ licences). Reducing these could have an impact on road deaths;
• The poor find it more difficult to get through everyday life without paying bribes than the wealthy, and are significantly more targeted to pay bribes for employment; and
• Bribery for employment and contracts occur almost equally in the private and public sectors.

These figures paint a picture of citizens that are familiar with the phenomenon of bribery, but the fact that so many people decline to pay bribes also show that there is hope.
“As organisations across the country observe International Anti-corruption Day on 9 December, it is worth celebrating the ordinary heroes who choose to take a personal stand against corruption,” says Professor Deon Rossouw, CEO of The Ethics Institute. “The research findings show that South Africans do have a moral compass, and those who pay bribes are still in the minority.”

According to survey respondents the top five reasons for resorting to bribery are to avoid traffic offences (36%); to secure a job (18%); to obtain a driver’s licence (15%); to receive unauthorised discounts from businesses (7%); and to get a tender 4%.

Professor Rossouw says “It is clear that there are those who pay bribes to exploit the system for their own benefit, but there are also vulnerable people who are exploited by unscrupulous individuals. We found that South Africans with lower income find it significantly more difficult to get through everyday life without paying a bribe, particularly with respect to bribes to secure jobs. There is a certain injustice in the fact that those who have the least resources are most vulnerable to being targeted.”

Massmart Anti-Corruption Compliance Executive, Johann Stander says “At Massmart we are committed to doing business the right way and have invested significantly in promoting a culture of integrity within our organisation. We also believe that we should play a broader anti-corruption role in our society because bribery increases the cost of living for all of us and undermines the rule of law and the values of our democracy. It is not good for social cohesion nor is it good for business, hence our sponsorship of the South African Citizens’ Bribery Survey.”

The survey findings were based on interviews with more than 4553 South Africans from urban centres in Gauteng, Limpopo Kwazulu-Natal, Free State and the Western Cape. The objective of the survey is to gain insight into the everyday experience of ordinary South Africans in relation to their perceptions of bribery, the extent of bribery in the country as well as the socio-economic factors that influence it. Some of the questions asked included; “how frequently are people asked for bribes? What are these bribes for? How much do people pay for bribes? How willing are they to do something about bribery? What were the reasons for paying or refusing to pay a bribe?’’