South Africa’s adherence to the rule of law declined ever so slightly in the past year, but the country’s ranking has remained unchanged from 2020.
In sub-Saharan Africa the country is ranked fifth out of 33 countries listed, and among upper-middle income countries, South Africa was eighth out of 40 peers.
The Rule of Law Index covers areas such as constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, fundamental rights, order and security, regulatory enforcement, civil justice and criminal justice.
The Washington-based WJP interviews nearly 140 000 households and 4 200 legal practitioners and experts globally about the lived experiences of the rule of law in their countries and garners professional expert analyses.
Ahead of South Africa in the region were Rwanda, Namibia, Mauritius and Botswana.
Although South Africa’s democracy is more intact, its institutions more durable and its climate more transparent than most of its regional counterparts, its ranking has traditionally been dragged down by the lack of security.
South Africa’s best performance areas were in constraints on government, where it ranked 40th in the world; civil justice, where it came in 47th; and open government, where it came at number 32.
In previous years the index has recorded a worsening trend in adherence to the rule of law across the globe as populist movements with anti-democratic instincts swept into power. This year 74.2% of countries surveyed experienced declines in rule of law performance and only 25.8% improved.
According to the WJP, that 74.2% represents 84.7% of the world’s population, meaning 6.5 billion people were subjected to a reversal in the rule in the rule of law.
WJP co-founder and CEO Bill Neukom said the continuing of the negative trend in this year’s index “should be a wake-up call for us all.
As has been the case previously, the top performers came from the Scandinavian region, with Denmark, Norway and Finland coming out tops. At the bottom end of the scale were Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cambodia and Venezuela.
The countries with the biggest decline in rule of law in the past year were Belarus – where president Alexander Lukashenko stole an election and has been bashing all opposition to his 27-year rule – and Myanmar, where the military is firmly in charge and subjecting opposition and minorities to persecution. Nigeria, Nicaragua, Kyrgyz Republic and Argentina are also in this league.