Thousands resort to bribery

06 February 2021 | Economics

Windhoek ∙ [email protected]

Namibia is among the top five countries in Africa where citizens believe corruption is on the increase.

74% of Namibians surveyed in the 2019/20 Afrobarometer say corruption increased in the previous 12 months, ranking the country fourth on the latest index. The average for Africa is 59%.

In 2014/15, 63% of Namibians indicated growing corruption, which placed the country seventh on the index.

According to the Afrobarometer report, Namibians’ approval of government’s performance in fighting corruption dropped by 26 percentage points from 2008 to 2020. Only Malawi, with a decrease of 35 percentage points, fared worst. The average for Africa is a decline of 11 percentage points.

The survey for Namibia was completed before the #Fishrot scandal became public.

President Hage Geingob, at the official opening of Parliament on Tuesday, again said he believed corruption is not systemic in Namibia, “but perceptions have been created that Namibia is a corrupt society”.

Political scientist Christie Keulder, who is the national investigator for Afrobarometer in Namibia, says high levels of corruption perception could have more devastating effects than corruption itself.

“It generates a ‘culture of distrust’ towards some institutions and may create a cultural tradition of gift giving and hence, raising corruption,” Keulder told Market Watch.

‘Important test’

According to him, the capacity of citizens to see political corruption where it exists and to link such perceptions to evaluations of public officials constitutes an important test of political accountability.

“If fighting corruption is to bear fruit, learning how citizens see corruption, and the factors that account for their perceptions, should contribute to the critical tasks of fostering accountability and good governance in the country,” Keulder says.

Afrobarometer delivers such insights, he adds, “and thus would be critical for all efforts to increase and promote accountability and good governance in the country”.

Geingob on Tuesday referred to the Afrobarometer report, pointing out that it is based on respondents’ perceptions.

“Although corruption is not systemic in Namibia, we recognise that some corrupt officials have tainted the name of our country,” he said.

Corruption and perceptions thereof erode public trust in institutions and the fight against corruption should be intensified, the president said.


Survey Warehouse, Afrobarometer’s national partner locally, surveyed 1 200 Namibians for the report. The data was weighted to ensure nationally representative samples.

Afrobarometer concluded that 7% of Namibia’s total population were exposed to bribery to obtain any public service. Using the population figure of the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA) in its latest labour force report, that translates to around 170 000 people.

Respondents were asked how difficult is was to get services at various government institutions. The positive response for “very difficult” was: Hospitals and clinics (9.5%); obtaining official documents and permits (5.4%); police (4.1%); and schools (2.6%).

Respondents were then asked how often they had to pay a bribe, give a gift or do a favour for civil servants to get the services they needed. The positive response for “once or twice” was: Police at checkpoints or traffic stops (2.1%); schools (1.3%); clinics or hospitals (1%); officials documents and permits (1%); and other police matters (0.9%).

‘Getting worse’

According to the Afrobarometer report, developing countries lose US$1.26 trillion a year to corruption, theft and tax evasion. It quotes the United Nations as saying that unless corruption is controlled, achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) will be “all but impossible”.

“Yet corruption scandals make almost daily headlines, in Africa as elsewhere,” the report states. It cites Namibia as an example: “Namibians are gearing up for one of their most prominent court cases ever, involving two ministers accused and imprisoned in the #Fishrot corruption scandal.”

According to Afrobarometer: “Africans say things are getting worse rather than better. … Most citizens say their government is doing too little to fight corruption.”

The Afrobarometer report normally covers about 38 countries in Africa. In the latest survey, however, fieldwork was suspended because of the Covid-19 pandemic. The report therefore only covers 18 countries.

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