The surprising case of police bribery reduction in South Africa

Caryn Peiffer, Heather Marquette*, Rosita Armytage, Trevor Budhram

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
245 Downloads (Pure)


The paper examines why there was a reduction of almost 15% in police bribery in Limpopo province, South Africa between 2011 and 2015, compared to only a 4% reduction the country overall. Drawing on statistical analysis and in-depth qualitative fieldwork, the research shows that the reduction occurred during an unprecedented anticorruption intervention in the province that did not directly tackle police bribery. Despite this, the intervention’s high visibility, along with uncertainty among the police of its mandate, was likely to have made police less willing to engage in bribery during this period. While police sector-specific characteristics (high degree of discretion, peer solidarity and contact with criminals) make fighting entrenched corruption particularly difficult, the research shows how a disruptive event can counteract these factors and how this can happen more quickly than previously anticipated. For long-term impact, however, disruption strategies likely need to be driven by strong leadership and structural changes that will continually disrupt corruption patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)587-606
Number of pages20
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Issue number5
Early online date17 May 2019
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2019

Structured keywords

  • SPS Centre for Urban and Public Policy Research


  • corruption
  • bribery
  • police
  • South Africa
  • governance


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