Would you describe the following activities as corruption?

  • A traffic cop soliciting a bribe from a driver
  • home affairs official soliciting a bribe from a refugee
  • housing official soliciting a bribe from an applicant for RDP houses
  • A teacher soliciting sexual favours from a learner
  • A manager of an NGO using funded money for personal needs
  • Foreigner refugees getting married to south african citizens
  • Church collections  being stolen by a priest
  • Leniency in court because of position e.g. gov minister or a priest
  • worker taking supplies from work cupboard

‘Corruption is the abuse of public resources and power for personal gain.’

“Bribery is offering, giving, or asking for a gift in order to influence the actions of an official or other person when they are performing their public or legal duty.”

“Nepotism, procurement fraud, and any misuse of state resources are all forms of corruption.”

“Corruption occurs when procedures are not followed and there is no accountability.”

Discussion questions:

  • Can you think of other examples of corruption – at home, work, in the community, in public life?
  • In the past year, how often, if ever, have you had to pay a bribe, give a gift, or do a favour for someone in order to get something done?


Why is there so much corruption in our country?

  • Desperation: When people are desperate they may look for anyway out.
  • Poor law enforcement: South Africa has strong laws against corruption but they are not well enforced.
  • Weak moral formation: Many people do not think there is anything wrong with corruption.
  • Fear of reporting: People may fear reporting corruption in case of reprisals – there isn’t enough protection for whistle blowers.
  • Apathy: Even though we are aware, many of us don’t bother to do anything about it.
  • Greed: Some of us want more than we need, and are prepared to use any methods to acquire.
  • Jobs for pals: Pressure from family and friends for favours is also a form of corruption.

 “If there is a passive group of citizens, corruption will flourish.”

A 2012 survey conducted among 2400 adult South Africa citizens revealed the following:

  • 32% of respondents stated that politics that is clean and free of corruption is an essential characteristic of democracy
  • South Africans (52%) say that there is corruption within the police 
  • More than two thirds (70%) support a watchdog role for the media with regard to corruption
  • 65% of South Africans report that the government has failed to manage corruption well.

(Survey: Afrobarometer 2011

Discussion questions:

  • Is corruption only about breaking a law?
  • Or is it about disobeying a moral principle?



What is wrong with corruption?

  • Corruption is not just illegal, it is immoral – it is an infringement of a fundamental moral value.
  • Our moral values are those norms that guide us to make choices between what is right and wrong, good and bad.
  • We learn our values in our family, our religion and our culture.
  • Something is immoral if we knowingly and consciously make a wrong/bad choice.
  • Christians share common values about honesty and integrity.
  • These values do not only apply in one’s personal but also in public life.
  • The Catholic church has a large body of Social Teachings which provide guidance in applying Christian values to some of the complex social, economic and political challenges that we face. These are based on the following principles: the universal destination of earthly goods, solidarity and the common good, option for the poor and promotion of peace
  • Governments are seen as having responsibility for the stewardship of a country’s resources, and their fair allocation for the benefit of all.
  • And so all forms of corruption can be considered theft; and state corruption is theft from the poor.


 “Corruption and all forms of dishonesty are not just legal problems, they are ethical ones.”

‘For from the least to the greatest of them,

everyone is greedy for unjust gain;

and from prophet to priest everyone deals falsely.

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,

saying “Peace, Peace”, when there is no peace.’ (Jeremiah 6: 13)

“[T]he supreme criterion in economic matters…must not be the special interest of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort…On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity.” (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 38/39) 

“By entrusting His creation to human beings, God wanted them to manage it for the good of all. Everyone is a co-inheritor of the resources of the universe: “God has destined the earth and all it contains for the use of everyone and of all peoples, so that the good things of creation should be available equally to all…For this reason, in making use of them, we ought to regard the exterior things we lawfully possess not just as our own but also as common, in the sense that they can profit not only the owners but others also.” (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Gaudium et Spes: 69)

“[P]ublic authority should ensure that nobody misuses private property contrary to the common good. Even property of its nature also has a social aspect which is based on the law of the common purpose of goods. If this social dimension is neglected, property frequently comes to be an occasion for greed and serious disorder..”. (Gaudium et Spes: 71)

Solidarity is the recognition of the interconnectedness of personal and institutional activities that make up the social fabric of human existence. … When economic activity undercuts community – e.g. creating great gaps between rich and poor – then solidarity is destroyed: [Solidarity] is not a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of so many people. On the contrary, it is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good; that is to say, to the good of all and of each individual because we are all really responsible for all.” (Pope John Paul II, Sollicitudo Rei Socialis: 38.4 

Discussion questions

  • What do Christian teachings say about corruption?
  • Are we only honest when no-one is looking? Or do we act out of an honest heart?
  • What social circumstances may contribute to corrupt practices?
  • What ethical dilemmas may confront an employer when his family or community members are in the job queue?
  • How does your culture respond to gestures such as the giving and receiving of gifts?
  • Which party carries the greatest guilt – the one who bribes or the one who accepts the bribe?


  • What can we do to prevent corruption?
  •  Who do you think is responsible for tacking corruption?
  • What can we as individuals do?

As individuals we can …

  • resist and report
  • support others to do the same

In our families we can …

  • teach our children about honesty and acting with integrity

In our church we can

  • educate ourselves and one another
  • ensure transparent parish financial reporting
  • pay just wages in church.
  • raise awareness about corruption and circulate information about anti-corruption strategies
  • encourage parish youth to debate issues related to corruption
  • make it known that we are ‘unashamedly ethical’
  • incorporate “corruption” themes into sermons
  • arrange talks from organisations like Corruption Watch” and “Unashamedly Ethical”

In our communities we can ….

  • become aware and active
  • participate in community structures, e.g. schools and discuss issues of corruption
  • act locally with others to confront corruption, e.g. with other churches in the community.
  • give encouragement and support to whistle- blowers

In our country we can ….

  • support the role of the media in exposing corruption
  • demand honesty and accountability from our civil leaders – at municipal and national levels
  • be informed about organisations fighting corruption