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Key findings
  • A growing number of Basotho see the level of corruption in the country as having decreased over the previous year (41%, up from 26% in 2014). About the same proportion (39%) say corruption has increased.
  • Citizens give increasingly positive assessments of the government’s performance in fighting corruption. Six in 10 (60%) say the government is doing “fairly well” or “very well,” up from 35% a decade ago.
  • But growing majorities of Basotho say that at least “some” elected and government officials, police officials, and judges are corrupt.
  • Two-thirds (65%) of Basotho say that ordinary people can make a difference in the fight against corruption, and even more (70%) think it’s likely that authorities will act on reports of corruption. But two-thirds (68%) also say that people risk retaliation if they report corruption
  • Basotho have mixed views on the impartiality of two entities with important roles to play in ensuring the integrity of Lesotho’s public sector – the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences (DCEO) and the Police Complaints Authority (PCA).

Corruption poses a serious threat to economic development and democratic governance in Africa. In recent years, Lesotho has been shaken by a number of corruption scandals involving high-ranking politicians. Allegations of corruption in the government fleet-service contract with Bidvest featured significantly in the split of the leading Democratic Congress (DC) party and the no-confidence vote that ended the Pakalitha Mosisili government in 2017 (Post, 2017; Matlosa, 2017). Lesotho’s ranking in Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index dropped from 55th in 2013 to 83rd in 2016 before rebounding to 74th in 2017 (Transparency International, 2018).

In an attempt to combat corruption and restore public confidence, the government has taken some steps to shift the tide. After elections in June 2017, Parliament’s new Public Accounts Committee conducted its hearings on national television, allowing Basotho to hear about charges that government officials misappropriated public funds. The Lesotho Auditor General has consistently criticized the government’s consolidated financial statements (Kingdom of Lesotho, 2017, 2018), which the Public Accounts Committee studies and references in following up with government departments on their use of public funds, for noncompliance with legal requirements.

Afrobarometer’s most recent survey in Lesotho shows that while citizens are divided as to whether corruption has increased or decreased in the country, a majority say the government is doing a good job of fighting it. The police and government officials are most widely seen as corrupt, while religious and traditional leaders are most commonly seen as not being involved in graft. Many Basotho affirm that ordinary people can fight corruption, but two out of three say they risk retaliation if they report corruption to the authorities.

Libuseng Malephane

Libuseng is the national partner representative for Anglophone countries at Afrobarometer

Thomas Isbell

Post-doctoral research fellow and research assistant at Afrobarometer