Lower income groups find it more difficult to navigate daily life without paying a bribe: Survey shows

NOVEMBER 29, 2016

Key findings include:

  • 33% of respondents know someone who was asked for a bribe in the past year;
  • The average bribe amount is R2200, up by R195 from last year;
  • 18% of bribes are to secure employment;
  • 51% of the bribes were for traffic related offences

The second South African Citizen’s Bribery Survey, conducted by The Ethics Institute and sponsored by Massmart-Walmart, compared, among other things, how the different income groups experience bribery. The results show that 48% of the respondents who earn less than R100 000 per annum thought it was difficult to navigate daily life without paying bribe while only 27% of the higher income group (R500 000 and more per annum) believe the same.

Professor Deon Rossouw, CEO of The Ethics Institute, says “Our survey respondents are typically from a wide socio-economic range so this year we decided to focus specifically on the difference between the experience of bribery of South Africans in higher versus lower income groups. We found that South Africans with lower income find it significantly more difficult to get through everyday life without paying a bribe, particularly with respect to bribes to secure jobs.

"There is a certain injustice in the fact that those who have the least resources are most vulnerable to being targeted. It is a reflection of the desperation of many in our society and an uncomfortable reminder that the adage 'bread first, morals later' might hold true.” 

According to survey respondents the top five reasons for resorting to bribery are to avoid traffic offences (36%); to secure a job (18%); to obtain a driver’s licence (15%); to get a tender (7%); and to receive unauthorised discounts from business (4%).

Of the five provinces surveyed; 32% of respondents in Kwazulu-Natal indicated that they knew someone who was approached for a bribe compared to 28% in Gauteng; 14% in The Free State; 14% in the Western Cape and 12% in Limpopo.

Massmart Anti-Corruption Compliance Executive, Johann Stander says “At Massmart we are committed to doing business the right way and have invested significantly in promoting a culture of integrity within our organisation. We also believe that we should play a broader anti-corruption role in our society because bribery increases the cost of living for all of us and undermines the rule of law and the values of our democracy. It is not good for social cohesion nor is it good for business, hence our sponsorship of the South African Citizens’ Bribery Survey.”

The survey results also show that lower income groups are 17% more vulnerable to paying bribes for jobs, while those with an income of more than R500 000 in turn experience 16% more tender bribery than the low income group. 

Bribery for driver’s licences was also 8% higher for the lower income respondents, which according to Prof Rossouw, could reflect the value that a driver's licence has in relation to securing a job at this income level.

Prof Rossouw says it is interesting to note that bribes for discounts/free goods were more prominent with the lower income respondents and completely absent from the higher income respondents.

The survey findings were based on interviews with more than 4553 South Africans from urban centres in Gauteng, Limpopo, KwaZulu-Natal, Free State and Western Cape.

The objective of the survey is to gain insight into the everyday experience of South Africans in relation to their perceptions of bribery, the extent of bribery in the country as well as the socio-economic factors that influence it. Some of the questions asked included; “how frequently are people asked for bribes? What are these bribes for? How much do people pay for bribes? How willing are they to do something about bribery? What were the reasons for paying or refusing to pay a bribe?’’