The South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) is worried that the state of corruption in our country remains alarmingly bad. The Corruption Perception Index (CPI) released in January 2024 suggests that it is not only bad but growing worse as South Africa has moved to 41st place on the index.

The Corruption Watch report released today affirmed the CPI that corruption levels in the country have remained worse over the past 12 years. For 2023, Corruption Watch reportedly received 2 110 corruption complaints from the private to public sectors, and from mining to policing.

The sectors from which the greatest number of complaints came include Mining at 38%, Policing at 23% and Business at 12%. It is not surprising that mining and policing had the largest number of complaints.

In the mining communities, there is the proliferation of illegal mining and many communities facing new mining projects experience a lot of bribery between local leaders and mining companies. Local chiefs and traditional councils are bribed to hand over rights to mining companies without due consultation with community members. Demonstrably, this has led to legal tussles and even violent confrontations between different factions of rural communities where mining recently encroached (between supporters of the chiefs who are usually pro-mining, and the general members of the community either concerned about the legitimacy of the process or opposed to mining).

Policing is marred by corruption too, with police officers either being bribed by bigger criminal syndicates or extorting money from small criminals. Community members always complain that drug dealers in our communities are bribing police officers to evade arrest and incarceration.

Businesses are affected from different angles. In one instance they are victims, and in another, they are perpetrators. Companies involved in construction and infrastructure development in our communities are victims of construction mafias – syndicates of parasitic groups who live off by extorting money out of legitimate businesses that are engaged in infrastructure projects in our communities.
In another, they are perpetrators in that they bribe government officials to get outsourcing contracts, engage in accounting fraud, defraud consumers, and engage in tax-dodging schemes. It has been revealed by different civil society organisations like the AIDC and Global Financial Integrity that illicit financial flows including tax dodging amount to between 3% and 7% of SA’s GDP annually.

The public sector – from the municipal levels to public services and public companies – is badly managed and characterized by maladministration and procurement irregularities. For example, R134 million was looted in the Bojanala Municipality, North West province, in which the looting spree included the “purchase of 2 laptops for R2 million, R359 500 spent on a lunch and travel costs for a one-day trip of 65km and R20 million spent on septic tanks.”

Complaints received from the Basic Education sector amounted to 12%. Though districts were formally sites for accumulation by the comprador bourgeois using stationery procurement, scholar transport, and food supply to nutritional schemes of section 20 schools, schools are more and more becoming such sites of accumulation. Different groupings in townships and villages are beginning to contest the space for procurement deals for maintenance. In addition, contestation for promotional posts has led to botched recruitment processes, including allegations that some principals sell entry-level teaching posts.

That corruption complaints received by Corruption Watch from the State Owned Entities amounted to 11% is not only unsurprising but a reflection of underreporting. Looting through outsourcing and procurement corruption in the State Owned Enterprises (SOEs) is widespread to the point of crippling major SOEs like Eskom.

SAFTU once again appeals to law enforcement agencies, particularly the police, and courts, to ensure successful investigation, prosecution, and incarceration of corrupt individuals.

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