Think SA is crooked? There’s a world of corruption out there

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Think SA is crooked? There’s a world of corruption out there

If you thought we were bad, have a smug little gander at the new world corruption index

Columnist


If the Zondo commission has started to shake your faith in our little land, help is at hand. Transparency International has released its Corruption Perception Index for 2018 and it is balm for the battered SA soul.
Before I get your hopes up too high, let me lead with the bad news. According to the annual index of public sector graft, SA scores only 43 points out of a possible 100, putting it firmly alongside the sort of countries where accountability means being led blindfolded into a basement to explain yourself to a guy with a hammer.
It is also somewhat alarming to see that we have drifted lower in the past four years. At least, until you stumble across the first piece of great news. Because you know who else is getting more corrupt? Australia! Ha! Stick that in your perfect little pipe and vape it, you self-righteous sandpaper smugglers! Yes, okay, you’re still the 13th-most honest country in the world and we’re 73rd, but, as Steve Waugh said to Herschelle Gibbs, a drop is a drop.
But that’s only the start of the good news, because if you scroll past Australia en route to SA, you’ll pass Brazil, China, India and eventually Russia, at which point you’ll discover a genuinely stunning fact: according to Transparency International, we are the least corrupt member of the Brics group. Which, I suppose, is all you really need to know about that super-group of sleaze. (Russia is particularly spectacular: at 138th out of 180 countries, it is, to loosely paraphrase Churchill, a kickback wrapped in a brown paper bag inside a sewer.)
You’ll also be provided with some useful facts to use next time someone corners you and starts letting you know how rotten Africa is compared with squeaky clean Europe. “Oh yes?” you can ask. “Do you mean Europe as in Bulgaria or Serbia or Bosnia and Herzegovina or Kosovo or Macedonia? And what of Albania or Armenia or Moldova?” Because it turns out that all of those European countries are considerably more crooked than we are.
Yes, your interrogator will retort, but that’s all Eastern Europe, which is really Russia’s driveway, or, if you want to get historical, North Turkey. The real European countries are pure as the driven snow! Look at Denmark in first place, or Finland, Sweden and Switzerland tied for third! Look at Norway in seventh, or the Netherlands in eighth! Even the Brits are up there, tied for 11th: they might be shooting their country in the head, but at least they’re not stealing from it!
Well, perhaps. But the truth is more complex. For example, the report stresses the fact that is does not include money-laundering in its calculations, largely because banks are not state institutions.
Things get murkier when one reads that some of the “cleanest” countries seem curiously reluctant to tackle money laundering. And the amounts involved are mind-boggling.
Danske Bank, for example, is accused of laundering $230bn worth of “suspicious transactions”. That’s R3.1-trillion, with a T. If the Zupta looters robbed us of R100bn in 10 years, Denmark – the least corrupt country in the world – is home to an organisation that has laundered the equivalent of 300 years of looting. Or, put another way, 12,600 Nkandlas.
Yes, we’re being sat on by gangsters and scumbags. Yes, corruption is thriving in SA. But if it’s any consolation, our gangsters and scumbags are still fairly low-rent amateurs. Let’s hope they don’t get any better.

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