When it comes to corruption, human rights, law enforcement and the prosecution of offenders, where would you say South Africa stands on a global scale? High, in between or low? Well, according to the World Justice Project (WJP), we’re among the top 40% countries worldwide who adhere to the rule of law in a number of aspects.

The WJP Rule of Law Index 2014 measured to what extent government, law enforcement and citizens adhere to the rule of law in practice, using 47 indicators organised around the following eight themes:

  • Constraints on government powers
  • Absence of corruption
  • Open government
  • Fundamental rights
  • Order and security
  • Regulatory enforcement
  • Civil justice
  • Criminal justice

“Although we may not be aware of it, the rule of law is a profoundly important part of our lives. It is the foundation for a system of rules to keep us safe, resolve disputes, and enable us to prosper,” says the WJP.

Over 100 000 citizens and 2 400 experts were interviewed in 99 countries around the globe, of those 99, South Africa is ranked 40th overall.

To gather its data, WJP consulted experts and conducted surveys to get balanced views, asking citizens questions such as whether or not they had given any bribes to an official in recent years, who is the most to blame for corruption, how local and provincial government is performing, whether or not South Africans can freely exercise their rights, how safe they feel in their neighbourhood, whether justice is served rightfully and so on.

When it comes to individually measuring the performance of the eight themes around which the indicators were organised, open government ranked the best at 26th overall, while order and security ranked the worst at 86th. Criminal justice, civil justice, law enforcement, fundamental rights, absence of corruption and constraints on government powers all ranked between 37th and 50th place.

The lowest ranked African country is Zimbabwe at 97th, while Botswana performed the best, ranking 25th overall. (And in case you were wondering which countries performed best and worst on the Rule of Law Index, Denmark is ranked number one and Venezuela is ranked very last at 99.)

“Where the rule of law is weak, medicines fail to reach health facilities, criminal violence goes unchecked, laws are applied  unequally across societies, and foreign investments are held back,” says the WJP. “To be effective, however, rule of law development requires clarity about the fundamental features of the rule of
law, as well as an adequate basis for its evaluation and measurement.”

“It is our hope that, over time, this diagnostic tool will help identify strengths and weaknesses in each country under review and encourage policy choices that strengthen the rule of law.”

You can explore all the in-depth data on South Africa on the WJP Rule of Law Index , view an interactive map on the global data and read the full report.

[Source – World Justice Project, Image – Shuttertock]