Southern Africa: High Prevalence of Bribery in the Region

Maputo, 22 November 2011, Agencia de Informacao de Mocambique — The latest survey on corruption in southern Africa indicates that 56 per cent of citizens who have been in contact with service providers have paid bribes. The survey, by the international anti-corruption NGO, Transparency International, was launched in Maputo on Tuesday. The date was chosen because it is the 11th anniversary of the assassination of the country’s foremost investigative journalist, Carlos Cardoso, on 22 November 2000. The survey, entitled “Daily Lives and Corruption”, took a sample of 1,000 people from each of six southern African countries – Mozambique, South Africa, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo. With the exceptions of Zambia and Malawi, the sample is exclusively urban.

In all the countries except Zambia, over half of the sample admitted that they had paid bribes at some stage in the previous year. The figure was highest in Mozambique, with 68 per cent of the sample admitting to paying bribes. In Zambia, the figure was 42 per cent.

In all countries, those surveyed named the police as the most corrupt institution. Those who said they had paid a bribe to the police in the previous 12 months ranged from 64 per cent in DR Congo to 38 per cent in Zambia. For Mozambique the figure was 48 per cent.

More than one in three (35 per cent) of the Mozambicans who had been in contact with the health services reported paying a bribe. This was much higher than anywhere else in the region even in DR Congo only 22 per cent of those who used the health service reported bribes.

35 per cent of the Mozambican sample who used education services reported paying bribes, and there was the same percentage of bribe payers among those who reported using registry and permit services.

Asked why they had paid the most recent bribe, over 60 per cent of the Mozambican sample said it was in order to speed up procedures. This contrasts strongly with the South African sample about 70 per cent of the South Africans said they paid bribes “to avoid problems with the authorities”. The equivalent figure for Mozambique was only 20 per cent.

Relatively few Mozambicans (around 10 per cent) said they had paid the bribe to obtain a service which, in principle, should be free of charge. This figure rose to over 20 per cent in the DRC and to about 30 per cent in Zimbabwe.

Across the region, the public perception is that corruption has worsened in the past three years. Everywhere, over half the sample reported small or large increases in corruption – ranging from 72.3 per cent in the DRC to 53.3 per cent in Malawi.

In Mozambique, 31.8 per cent though there had been a large increase in corruption, and 23.2 per cent thought there had been a small increase. 23 per cent thought there had been no change, while 21.1 per cent said there had been a decline in corruption.

Asked how corrupt they considered a range of institutions, the Mozambicans gave a relatively clean bill of health to NGOs, religious bodies, and the media. These were the only institutions that over 50 per cent of the sample considered not at all corrupt or only slightly corrupt.

At the opposite end of the scale were the police and the education system, regarded as “extremely corrupt” by 58.2 and 43.1 per cent of the sample.

There was considerable variation in assessment of government anti-corruption efforts across the region. Thus in Zimbabwe 53.9 per cent said the government’s actions were “somewhat ineffective” or “very ineffective”, while only 24.3 per cent ranked them as very or somewhat effective.

But in Malawi, the government got the thumbs up. 49.7 per cent thought the government’s efforts were effective against 40.2 per cent who said they were ineffective.

The Mozambican sample was divided – 31.1 per cent said the government actions were effective, 40.1 per cent said they were ineffective, and 26.4 per cent ranked them as “neither effective nor ineffective”.

Despite this less than enthusiastic endorsement of government policies, when asked who they most trusted to fight corruption, the interviewees tended to reply that it was government leaders.

The major exception to this was Mozambique, where only 20.2 per cent said they placed most trust in the government – 22.4 per cent said they put their trust in the media to fight corruption.

The media has a much better standing in Mozambique than in any of the other five countries. In Zimbabwe and the DRC, the media is clearly distrusted – only 5.2 per cent of the DRC sample and 5.6 per cent of the Zimbabweans said they would put most trust in the media in the struggle against corruption.

One encouraging finding of the survey is that 76 per cent of the sample agreed with the statement that “ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption”. That figure rose to 83 per cent in Zambia and 82 per cent in Mozambique.

Across the region, 88 per cent of those surveyed said they would support colleagues or friends who fought against corruption, 80 per cent said they could envisage themselves becoming involved in the anti-corruption struggle, and 77 per cent said they would report an incident of corruption.

In Mozambique, these figures rose to 91.2 per cent, 86.1 per cent, and 82.2 per cent. Even if one assumes that a good number of the interviewees were giving the pollsters the answers they assumed they wanted to hear, these high figures look like a firm basis of support for strong actions against corruption.