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Cape Town - T ransparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2017 saw South Africa drop two places to 71st position. According to Corruption Watch this drop, while marginal, is cause for concern.

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption as determined by experts and business people, using a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

According to the latest index, more than two-thirds of countries score below 50. This puts South Africa firmly in the company of countries with a serious corruption problem.

In sub-Saharan Africa, Botswana tops the list which saw Seychelles make its first appearance after Ghana dropped out of the top ten.

According to the graft watchdog, the newly released CPI "reflects the outcome of surveys conducted in 2016, prior to the dismissal of former finance minister Pravin Gordhan, action relating to the Public Protector’s October 2016 State of Capture report, and the daily scandals and revelations of grand corruption that characterised 2017."

Corruption Watch says the downward spiral in South Africa began in 2016, the year in which the survey was completed, "when there was a marked escalation in revealing corruption, primarily through a robust civil society and media.

"The increased exposure of corrupt activities can be attributed to a more vocal and active citizenry, but despite these mounting calls for accountability, the lack of prosecution remains a major obstacle in the fight against corruption.

"The continued impunity of our leaders has ensured that South Africa has not progressed beyond the low- to mid-40s on the index since Corruption Watch was launched in 2012. At that time, the score was 43 and has wavered over the years between 42 and 45, but is now back at where we were five years ago.

"This signals an alarming lack of progress in really improving our standing in a global context, in spite of ramped-up efforts to out the perpetrators of corruption," Corruption Watch said.

Transparency International’s index drew conclusions regarding the relationship between corruption levels and the freedom enjoyed by civil society to operate and influence public policy. The analysis, which incorporates data from the World Justice Project, shows that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption.

David Lewis, executive director of Corruption Watch, commented: “It is our constitutional order, our independent courts, our robust, independent media and our vigilant civil society organisations that have prevented our descent into the abyss from which there is no return. It is those institutions plus the few in government that survived the Zuma administration intact, that have led to the tectonic political shifts that we have experienced in the recent past. These shifts are however not to be taken for granted. Now is the time to intensify our vigilance and our demands for accountable government.”

South Africa is ranked ninth in relation to other sub-Saharan African countries, and this year was overtaken by Senegal. Once again, Botswana topped the charts and the only newcomer in the top 10 this year is the Seychelles, with Ghana having conceded its position.

Regional CPI table for Sub-Saharan Africa:

Country Score Ranking
Botswana 61 34
Seychelles 60 36
Cabo Verde 55 48
Rwanda 55 48
Namibia 51 53
Mauritius 50 54
Sao Tome and Principe 46 64
Senegal 45 66
South Africa 43 71
Burkina Faso 42 74

As indicated by South Africa's results," its sound financial, judicial and other institutions protect the country ."

The real test, however, according to Corruption Watch "is in the success in bringing corrupt people to book, and the failure of the prosecutorial bodies to act independently and decisively on matters during this period.

"Until there is evidence of people not only losing their jobs, but doing jail time for their corrupt activities, the country will continue to be grouped amongst the most corrupt and unsavoury places in the world."