AD292: Small improvements, not yet a ‘new dawn’: South Africans still see high levels of corruption

Welcome to the Afrobarometer publications section. For short, topical analyses, try our briefing papers (for survey rounds 1-5) and dispatches (starting with Round 6). For longer, more technical analyses of policy issues, check our policy papers. Our working papers are full-length analytical pieces developed for publication in academic journals or books. You can also search the entire publications database by keyword(s), language, country, and/or author.

Can't find a document?

As we work to upgrade our website, occasional technical issues may cause some links to break and some documents to be temporarily unavailable. If you're unable to find a specific document, please email

Filter content by:

Mikhail Moosa

In his first State of the Nation Address, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa (2018) announced “a new dawn” signaling the end of “all the negativity that has dogged our country,” including perceptions of widespread corruption under his predecessor, Jacob Zuma.

Heeding calls from the judiciary and civil society, Ramaphosa has implemented a judicial commission of enquiry into “state capture,” the pernicious corruption within state institutions that has dominated South Africa’s media and public discourse (Chipkin & Swilling, 2018; Southall, 2018), and initiated reforms of malfunctioning state-owned enterprises. The private sector  has also come under scrutiny, including allegations that Steinhoff, a multinational furniture company, was involved in illegal trading (McKune & Thompson, 2018) and that global consulting firms provided support to undermine state entities (Bogdanich & Forsythe, 2018; Niselow, 2018).

Given corruption’s negative effects on the provision of government services and citizens’ trust in institutions and leaders (Felton & Nkomo, 2018), it is worth asking whether South Africans are seeing the “new dawn” that Ramaphosa has promised. Findings from the 2018 Afrobarometer survey show modest improvements in perceived corruption in the Presidency. But most South Africans still see corruption as increasing and bribery as an effective way of bypassing the law. 

Moreover, efforts to curb corruption will be hampered by a widespread perception that reporting instances of corruption risks retaliation.