Reviewing South Africa’s Efforts to Combat Corruption in its Bureaucracy: 1994-2009



Permanent link to this Item
Journal Title
Link to Journal
Journal ISSN
Volume Title

HSRC Press


University of Cape Town

This paper reviews efforts by the South African government to reduce corruption in its bureaucracy. It is based on a research study that covered the period 1994–2009, corresponding with the country’s transition to a non-racial democracy. The objective of the research was to identify and evaluate anticorruption measures targeting South Africa’s public service. While this paper draws on the findings of this study, its main aim is to consider the import of these observations on the wider institutional challenge of combating corruption in the government. It should firstly be noted that when this paper talks about ‘corruption’, it defines and analyses this according to how the issue has been both legally defined and functionally described in the context of public bureaucracy in South Africa. From a more scholarly perspective, this paper examines the issue of corruption from the point of view of ‘public duty’ or ‘public office’ centred definitions, which focus on the deviation by bureaucrats from formal and legally defined duties and obligations (see Caiden & Caiden 1977: 302; Werner 1983: 147). In this regard, the Prevention and Combating of Corrupt Activities Act (No. 12 of 2004), much like its predecessor – the Corruption Act (No. 94 of 1992) – concentrates on persons who accept or offer to accept/give or agree to give any gratification, which results in them being influenced/or attempting to influence persons to act in a particular manner. Such a manner must moreover be deemed illegal, dishonest, unauthorised, incomplete or biased in exercising or carrying out the performance of any powers, duties or functions that arise from a constitutional, statutory, contractual or any other legal obligation, or otherwise constitute the abuse of a position of authority, breach of trust, violation of a legal duty or set of rules. Section 4 of the Act also applies this general definition to corrupt activities relating to ‘public officers’, and describes specific activities relating to the performance of public officials in particular.