SA President Cyril Ramaphosa. FILE PHOTO: ANA

JOHANNESBURG - The allegations of bribery and corruption at the controversial VBS Mutual Bank was a "shock and a travesty of trust" in financial institutions, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Monday.

"The VBS story shocked all of us. It was really a travesty of the trust that our people had placed in a financial institution," Ramaphosa said during a wide-ranging live interview he had on eNCA's new night news show, Tonight with Jane Dutton.

"What happened in VBS is really a shame not only to the people of Venda or Limpopo but the people of South Africa as a whole and ordinary old women who saved their money for burial societies and all that. So we are really ashamed about what happened."

He said those who were responsible had to be dealt with in terms of the South African law. Ramaphosa said there have been criticisms for the regulatory processes for mutual banks, adding that people have suggested that the rules and regulations were too lax as they were less stringent than those for commercial banks. 

The South African Reserve Bank (Sarb) placed VBS under curatorship in March and its annual financial statements were found to be inaccurate. The Sarb said a forensic probe was underway to check whether any fraud was committed. 

However, retail deposits of up to R100,000 per depositor have been guaranteed by Sarb and can be withdrawn at Nedbank.

Some 14 municipalities from the North West, Limpopo and Gauteng provinces have owned up to depositing about R1.5 billion in into VBS as part of a short-term investment. 

During the interview, Ramaphosa also spoke about the relationship South Africans have with the ruling African National Congress (ANC). 

A new “Pulse of the People” study, sampled from 3,000 South Africans, carried out by market research firm Ipsos suggests the ANC enjoys 60 percent support, the Democratic Alliance 13 percent and the Economic Freedom Fighters seven percent.

Commenting on a study, the president said that South Africans were rekindling their relationship with the ruling party ahead of the general elections in 2019.

"I think South Africans are indicating their level of confidence and trust in the  African National Congress. They are rekindling their love affair with the ANC and we see this in the figures," Ramaphosa told Dutton.

"This is very humbling. It is confidence-building as well - and it also shows that the ANC is still seen by a majority of South Africans as the leader of society."

Answering a question on unity within the party Ramaphosa said unity was not a one-day event, but a process adding that they were working on unity and that people would be surprised in the end when they see how the party's leaders and members united to find one another.

Dutton also asked Ramaphosa if, on the issue of corruption, he would be willing to "go after those" who are possibly close to him, Ramaphosa said yes. He added that the ANC's December conference gave its new leaders a mandate to eradicate and eliminate corruption.

"The answer is a resounding yes,  we will make sure that we root out corruption and if it affects any of us - we must be accountable."

- African News Agency