South Africa

South Africans do not trust politicians to tackle corruption

A recent report found that distrust of leadership has increased over the past 20 years in South Africa, and over 80% of South Africans believe corrupt officials get away with it.

This was revealed in the 2023 Institute for Justice and Reconciliation Barometer, which said the deepening distrust of leadership shown in the results is concerning for reconciliation and follows a decade of pervasive corruption.

In 2003 and 2013, just over half of all South Africans agreed that the people running the country were not concerned about what happens to ordinary citizens. 

By 2023, eight in ten South Africans felt this way – an increase of 24 percentage points since the first survey round.

In addition, in 2003 and 2013, only about a fifth of South Africans agreed that it was difficult to trust leaders to do the right thing. 

This figure has nearly quadrupled over the past decade, with 79% of South Africans agreeing in 2023 that leaders are untrustworthy. 

Source: 2023 Institute for Justice and Reconciliation Barometer

The report said this deepened distrust is largely the result of rampant corruption over the past few years.

The Reconciliation Barometer has measured public attitudes about corruption since 2019, and results across three survey rounds show consistently high consensus and concern. 

In 2023, eight in ten South Africans (82%) agreed that corrupt officials often get away with it. 

Almost three-quarters (74%) agreed that most politicians have no real will to fight corruption, and 84% said that corruption affects ordinary people more than it affects decision-makers. 

Additionally, the survey found that there is a “high degree of consensus that there is little political will to address corruption and that its perpetrators are able to operate with impunity”.

Source: 2023 Institute for Justice and Reconciliation Barometer

This distrust affects not only politicians but also most major public institutions, which are experiencing declining confidence.

By 2015, confidence had dropped across all institutions included in the survey – including SARS, the Constitutional Court, SAPS, and the NPA – and these have never returned to the levels first recorded in 2007. 

In 2023, less than 40% of South Africans reported having a great deal or quite a lot of confidence in any of the institutions included in the Barometer, with only two exceptions: the

South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) at 57% and the South African Revenue Services (SARS) at 46%.

Source: 2023 Institute for Justice and Reconciliation Barometer

Investec chief economist Annabel Bishop said the heightened political noise in the run-up to the national elections, likely in Q2 2024, and the uncertainty over the election and the nature of the coalition government are adding to the weak nature of the domestic currency.

She added that new political parties have proliferated ahead of the elections, and this has also dulled the predictability of the election outcome.

However, she added that the new Umkhonto weSizwe party could bolster the ANC via coalition support after the election. 


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