President Cyril Ramaphosa speaking at the Business Unity of South Africa Strategic Dialogue for a Transformed and Inclusive Economy held at Gallagher Estate, north of Johannesburg. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi/African News Agency (ANA)

Johannesburg - President Cyril Ramaphosa said on Tuesday that corruption must be dealt with harshly and that this year should be the last in which South Africa is described as a country ripped apart by corruption.

Ramaphosa was reacting to a report by Transparency International that said South Africa ranked among the world's most corrupt countries. The 2018 Corruption Perceptions Index was released on Monday, 

South Africa remained in ninth place in sub-Saharan Africa, suggesting that perceptions of corruption in the country remained high.

"This should now be the last time that South Africa is described like that. We are going through a very cathartic moment where all the wrong things are spewing out," Ramaphosa said. 

He said there must be redemption and accountability, "and we are going to make sure that happens without fail". 

"There should be real serious action taken. It's important that we hold hands and fix our country. We should not be a country that is defined by acts of corruption that are completely out of kilter with the value system we put for ourselves." 

The index ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and business people. It uses a scale of 0 to 100, where 0 is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean. In 2018, South Africa had a score of 43, down from 45 in 2017.

Ramaphosa said government had put in place mechanisms to root out corruption because those who were corrupt would "fight back and resist". He said that the state had been "denuded" and key people had left government while the lacklustre took up key positions.

Ramaphosa made the remarks while in dialogue with the president of Business Unity South Africa (BUSA), Sipho Pityana, at the inaugural Business Economic Indaba.

Ramaphosa said his number one priority was for "effective transformation" that would grow the economy to higher levels. This would enable the tackling of unemployment and poverty. He was also seeking collaboration with stakeholders. He said the crisis in recent years that was characterised by credit downgrades had afforded the opportunity for government and business to talk more.

"We are headed in a direction where we are rebuilding the integrity of our country and reforming our institutions and addressing SOEs. The efficacy of our SOEs needs to be recalibrated," he said.

African News Agency (ANA)