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Corruption and state capture: Research gives “voice” to ordinary South Africans

Corruption and state capture: Research gives “voice” to ordinary South Africans

Ask Afrika (South Africa’s largest independent research company) and Infusion Knowledge Hub were commissioned by the Centre for Communication and Reputation Management at the University of Pretoria, to explore the views of ordinary citizens around corruption and state capture.  The research delved into understanding how citizens define themselves within the broader context of the population, their views on what the most pressing issues within Government are and the extent to which they perceive corruption and state capture to be prevalent in South Africa. It also aimed to assess satisfaction with political performance; South African voting patterns and tendencies; and to gain a scientifically-verified understanding of how the majority of South Africans believe corruption and state capture will affect the future of the country.

Study Highlights

It was clear from the qualitative results that citizens used the focus groups as a platform to voice their dissatisfaction with the current state of affairs in the country.  The discussion themes and language in the focus groups informed the quantitative questionnaire, which ranged from the current mood of the nation, voting patterns, satisfaction with government, corruption, state capture and hope for the future. 

Study highlights include:

  • Two thirds of respondents feel that living conditions improved after the end of apartheid;
  • Most respondents are confident that there is a happy future in store for all races in South Africa;
  • More than half of the cohort are confident of a happy future for all immigrants and SA citizens, working side by side;
  • 62% think good progress has been made to transform sport; 55% for business and 51% in the workplace;
  • But, 77% think their country is currently going in the wrong direction.
  • Significantly, poor satisfaction levels were reported with government - from the highest office in the country to ward level - While magistrates and judges rated best for doing their jobs well.
  • Leaders are regarded as failing to adhere to the people’s preferred value system of being trustworthy, honest, listening to the people and competent to name few important requirements of citizens.
  • The majority of citizens have heard of corruption and  68% of citizens think state capture happens in South Africa. 
  • Most South Africans believe that with employment comes dignity and self-respect, but that currently, corruption is responsible for declining jobs.  The ties that bind citizens, irrespective of background or differences, are:
  1. Fight against corruption;        
  2.  Employment for all;                
  3. Fight against poverty.

Is the government serving the people?

The results after four months of qualitative and quantitative research represent the voice of 37-million South Africans aged 18 years plus with 80% of the sample focusing on the poorer communities within the country. Said Dr Melani Prinsloo from Infusion Knowledge Hub, who managed and executed the qualitative research, “The focus group discussions gave ordinary South Africans a safe platform to share and discuss their experiences of government, corruption, state capture and political party performance. In doing so, South Africans provided an ethical framework to consider corruption and state capture. In addition, a set of key indicators on an ideal government, drivers of corruption/state capture and the impact of corruption/state capture were produced. These formed the basis for the quantitative study.” The value of the qualitative phase is imbedded in the themes reported by citizens themselves, and this was then used to design the quantitative questionnaire section facilitated by Ask Afrika. 

The views highlight high levels of distrust and dissatisfaction with government performance. The majority of citizens believe that their basic needs are not being met as a result of corruption and state capture, with 77% feeling that the country is moving in the wrong direction. Despite this, 84% of the respondents remain Proudly South African, with 46% of them choosing to be identified first as South Africans before any other demographic descriptors like race, gender, religion or culture.

The findings showed that a significant minority of  South Africans will continue to follow political leaders, even when the leaders are not doing their jobs very well.  From the highest office in the country up to ward level, poor satisfaction levels were reported, with the magistrates and judges in the country rated the best at doing their jobs well. Leadership are failing on the people’s required value system of being trustworthy, honest, listening to the people and competence to name some of the value metrics evaluated and preferred by citizens.  Government is not expected to be perfect but the performance gap on issues such as house/land ownership, fighting corruption, creating employment and providing basic services to citizens is still significant.  The fight against corruption remains a top priority for citizens and they expect government to listen to their needs and wants.

Corruption degrades the fibre of society

The overwhelming sentiment is that corruption degrades the fibre of society.  The majority of citizens have heard of corruption and a third of citizens think state capture is a reality in South Africa.  The main actors in corruption and state capture are regarded as high level politicians and business people, but this has a direct negative impact on citizens.  Citizens agree that corruption and state capture result in the following:

  1. Creates a personal sense of loss and psychological disempowerment
  2. Reduces trust in government
  3. Is responsible for poor service delivery and;
  4. Prevents economic growth

Active citizenship against corrupt individuals came out strong in the results, where 62% of citizens expect jail sentences and criminal charges against corrupt individuals, followed by 41% planning to vote corrupt politicians out of power.

The national psyche that binds citizens together

The data indicates that the national psyche that ties citizens together irrespective of background or differences is their willingness to fight against corruption (51%), their desire to see employment created for all (46%) and their dedication to fight against poverty (43%). In addition to the majority of South Africans confirming that they are willing to fight against corruption and racism, state capture and xenophobia, the overwhelming majority say corruption will undeniably impact their voting behaviour.

The survey clearly shows that South Africans will unite for the following reasons:

  1. 84% are Proudly South African
  2. 63% feel that living conditions improved after the apartheid regime
  3. 61% are confident that we will have a happy future for all races in South Africa
  4. 56% are confident in a happy future for all immigrants and SA citizens to work side by side
  5. 54% are confident for a happy future for all immigrants in SA
  6. 62% think good progress has been made to transform sport; 55% for business and 51% in the workplace
  7. But, 77% think their country is currently going in the wrong direction.

The results of the research will be unpacked at The Nation’s Voice on State Capture and Corruption, an exclusive workshop and panel discussion attended by academics, editors, senior journalists and high-level delegates at the Radisson Blu, Gautrain in Sandton on 6 December 2017.

 “This project aims to make research accessible to the general population and to encourage all individuals or groups with a willingness to further investigate these concepts and practices, to utilise the research findings. This will be a step closer to the democratisation of research in South Africa,” said Prof Ronel Rensburg from the Centre for Communication and Reputation Management. “The data and results aim to give voice to ordinary citizens and to be used as a catalyst for positive change in South Africa.”

“Ask Afrika is passionate about social impact and was honoured to have been commissioned to undertake this survey which not only amplifies the voices of 37 million people, but will further serve as a catalyst for change” said the CEO and Founder, Andrea Gevers

The research findings will be housed in the database of the Centre for Communication and Reputation Management (CCRM), Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences at the University of Pretoria. The study data and findings will be available as open domain information to allow access for all who wish to use the information.

For more information contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The following people are available for interviews:

  • Professor Ronel Rensburg: (+27 12 420 3395 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Melani Prinsloo (Infusion): (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Shamima Vawda (Infusion): (072 123 4155 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Andrea Gevers (Ask Afrika): (012 428 7400 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)
  • Sarina de Beer (Ask Afrika): (012 428 7400 / This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)