Page last updated at 12:09 GMT, Friday, 9 October 2009 13:09 UK

SA corruption hotline 'swamped'

Jacob Zuma laucnhing the hotline
Jacob Zuma manned the hotline himself when it first opened

The anti-corruption hotline set up by South Africa's President Jacob Zuma is proving unable to cope with the demand.

It was started in September in response to concerns about corruption and after demonstrations over lack of services.

The opposition Democratic Alliance says it has not been able to get through to the complaint line for 13 days.

South Africa's Mail and Guardian paper says when it rang, a message said: "Due to extremely high call volumes we are unable to attend to your call."

The BBC rang the 17737 hotline five times on Friday morning but was met with an engaged tone.

The DA has phoned the hotline a total of 42 times, over the course of 13 days, without once being able to get through
DA leader Helen Zille

When the line launched in 14 September, Mr Zuma himself took some of the first calls and promised callers that their complaints would be dealt with speedily.

But the Democratic Alliance says that three weeks on, getting through to the line is all but an impossible mission.

"The DA has phoned the hotline a total of 42 times, over the course of 13 days, without once being able to get through," the DA's leader Helen Zille said in a statement.

"These 42 calls translate into 572 minutes on hold; or nine hours 32 minutes," she said.

On its first day of operation, the free hotline took 27,000 calls and had in its first three hours received some 7,300 complaints from frustrated citizens.

The presidency at the time told the BBC the high call volumes were a good indication of the public's "desperate" need to make their grievances heard.

However, the DA says the hotline is an "inadequate" attempt to deal with the lack of accountability and poor service delivery.

The opposition party said it did initially manage to make four complaints after numerous attempts, but was not given a reference number for any of them.

"A big promise is made, amid much fanfare and publicity, but then nothing follows," said Ms Zille.

"It is ordinary South Africans who are let down as a result and lose faith in government's ability to deliver."

Attempts by the BBC to reach the presidency for comment proved unsuccessful.

It is reported that setting up the hotline cost an estimated 4m rand ($541,000; £325,000).

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