Negative media reporting on South Africa’s ranking in an international corruption perception survey was “unhelpful” for the country’s prospects, government said on Wednesday.
“Such misleading media reports are unhelpful in building the country but are feeding into a pessimistic outlook that can only damage our national psyche and prospects for economic growth,” acting director-general of the communication department Donald Liphoko said in a statement.
This was after Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index rated South Africa 44 out of 100. The lower the score the more corrupt a country is perceived to be.
Of the 175 countries scored, South Africa ranked 67th. Last year South Africa scored 42 and was ranked 72nd out of 177. Liphoko said: “It is important for the media to not only report the facts but to enrich the country’s debate on important national issues in a responsible manner”.
Government acknowledged “there is a level of corruption across society” and there were a number of measures in place to tackle the problem. These included the introduction of the Promotion of Access to Information Act, the Promotion of Access to Justice Act, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (2004), the introduction of the Public Finance Management Act and the Municipal Finance Management Act.
“…It is pessimistic to state that South Africa is at a point of no return,” he said.
As a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption, South Africa was obligated to enact anti-corruption measures to promote the prevention, detection and sanctioning of corruption.
“The National Development Plan clearly highlights that the Vision for 2030 is a South Africa that has zero tolerance for corruption.
“In 2030, South Africa will be a society in which citizens do not offer bribes and have the confidence and knowledge to hold public and private officials to account, and in which leaders have integrity and high ethical standards,” Liphoko said.
Earlier, Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said it would be a serious mistake to draw any comfort from the fact that South Africa had not slipped further in the index.
“Not far below us on the index are countries where corruption is endemic, where little can be done to turn around corruption.”
He said some key South African institutions showed characteristics of endemic corruption.
“Think of our criminal justice institutions. And think of the impunity enjoyed by leading public sector and private sector individuals, with the continuing Nkandla fiasco the clearest example of impunity enjoyed by the politically powerful.”
He was referring to controversy surrounding R246 million in so-called security upgrades to President Jacob Zuma’s private home in Nkandla in KwaZulu-Natal. Zuma claimed he did not ask for the refurbishments at his Nkandla home, which included a helipad, a swimming pool, an amphitheatre, and a chicken coop.
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela recommended in her report on the matter that Zuma repay a portion of the public funds spent on the upgrade.
“Indeed, given the growing controversy surrounding Nkandla and given the contempt displayed by the political and public sector leadership for a resolute anti-corruption fighter like the Public Protector, had the survey been conducted today, we may well have landed up with a significantly lower score.”
The Inkatha Freedom Party said stronger measures were needed to tackle corruption.
“There is a need for a change of mindset so as to ensure zero tolerance to corruption,” IFP national chairman Blessed Gwala said in a statement.
The party was concerned about court rulings being influenced.
“Another influence which may lead to court decisions being based on factors other than the facts and applicable law is a fear of retribution by powerful individuals,” Gwala said.
The IFP said corrupt office bearers should be expelled from government.
“Another deterrent that would work is legislation that enables repossession of owned assets to compensate for the loss suffered by victims of corruption.” SAPA