Pretoria - A staggering 83 percent of South Africans believe the police are corrupt, Transparency International has revealed.
In its Global Corruption Barometer 2013, released this week, Transparency International said South Africa was among 36 countries in which the police were seen as the most corrupt institution.
“About 83 percent of South Africans believed that police were corrupt. Thirty-six percent admitted to having paid bribes to police,” the report said.
DA shadow minister of police Dianne Kohler-Barnard said she was surprised that such a high number of ordinary South Africans believed that the police were corrupt.
“However, on reflection, I am not surprised that so many people believe the police are corrupt,” she said on Thursday.
She said the murder in broad daylight of people such as taxi driver Mido Macia and activist Andries Tatane by the police was clearly indicative of the kind of police force South Africa had.
“Police demand bribes each time they stop a car, and they threaten those who refuse to pay bribes.
“Police steal from houses of victims of crime when they go to their houses to get statements from the victims.
“This is not surprising as thousands of police officers have criminal records,” Kohler-Barnard said.
She said only a zero-tolerance approach towards corruption in the police force could bring sanity to it.
She said that at present corrupt police were being protected instead of being fired and that some of the police officers had moved up the ranks using forged certificates.
“There is this issue or tendency of circulating criminal elements within the police by moving them from one station to another instead of dismissing them,” she said.
This practice started during the time when Jackie Selebi was at the helm of the police force, she said.
“We need to sweep out the criminal elements and start building a proper police force which people can trust.
“This takes courage and determination,” she said, adding that all was not lost because there were some good police officers within the force.
According to Transparency International, an average of 53 percent of people sampled during the survey globally said they had paid a bribe to police.
The survey was conducted among 114 000 people in 107 countries. It showed corruption was widespread. In South Africa, 1 000 people from urban areas were interviewed.
Crime Line boss Yusuf Abramjee said members of the public no longer trusted the police.
He said that since the launch of Crime Line, it had become apparent that people did not trust the police.
“Many tipsters are saying they (police) work in cahoots with drug dealers and even tip them off before raids,” he said, adding that some people were suggesting that the operations should be contacted by police from outside the province (Gauteng).
Abramjee said he had written to the national police commissioner and the Gauteng commissioner, giving them this feedback.
In a statement on Thursday, national police commissioner General Riah Phiyega announced the launch of an anti-corruption unit to fight fraud and corruption in the service.
It would start operating during the current financial year, Phiyega said.
“If we are to successfully fight crime in the country, we must first get our house in order.
“We will therefore not shy away from taking action against our own,” Phiyega said.
Between June last year and June this year, 525 police officers were dismissed for crimes including corruption and fraud, Phiyega said.
Corruption Watch executive director David Lewis said the Global Corruption Barometer 2013 findings confirmed the increase in corruption was “not a mere perception”.
“We solicit public experiences of corruption and we are getting a significant number of reports of bribery and other acts of corruption, especially from poor communities,” Lewis said.
He said Corruption Watch had received over 4 200 complaints on corruption and related matters since its launch in January 2012.
He said half of these focused on the abuse of public power and resources by both the private and public sectors.
Around the world, the survey showed that 27 percent of the respondents had paid a bribe when accessing public services in the past 12 months.
This revealed no improvement from previous surveys.
Nearly nine out of 10 people surveyed said they would act against corruption, and two-thirds of those who were asked to pay a bribe had refused.
Of the 107 countries, 20 countries viewed the judiciary as the most corrupt. In these countries an average of 30 percent of the people who had come in contact with the judicial system had been asked to pay a bribe.
About 54 percent of the people surveyed globally considered their government to be ineffective in fighting corruption.
This lack of confidence in government efforts had grown compared with people’s views in the 2010/2011 survey, when 47 percent of people felt their government was ineffective in fighting corruption.
However, two in three people (67 percent) around the globe believed ordinary people could make a difference in the fight against corruption.
Two-thirds (64 percent) of people around the world thought that personal contacts were important in order to get things done in the public sector.
This went up to 80 percent in Israel, Italy, Lebanon, Malawi, Morocco and Russia.