South Africa’s anti-corruption watchdog has said President Cyril Ramaphosa “misled” parliament about a 500,000 rand ($35,900) donation he received for his campaign to lead the African National Congress (ANC).
Ramaphosa, who replaced former President Jacob Zuma last year and then went on to win a presidential election by pledging to tackle corruption, had denied knowledge of the donation when he was asked about it in parliament in November.
Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers that the payment was to his son, Andile, for consultancy work for Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations. He later admitted that it was a donation towards his campaign to become ANC leader.
Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane, who investigates allegations of wrongdoing by state officials, told reporters on Friday that Ramaphosa had violated the constitution and breached the executive code of ethics in his parliamentary reply.
In a report released on Friday, Mkhwebane said: “Although President Ramaphosa may have justified to correct the earlier statement on erroneous or incomplete information at his disposal, he indeed misled parliament”.
She said the president “should have allowed himself sufficient time to research a well-informed response,” before responding to a question from the main opposition Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane.
“I therefore find that President Ramaphosa’s conduct … although ostensibly in good faith, to be inconsistent with his office”.
Al Jazeera’s Fahmida Miller, reporting from Pretoria, said Mkhwebane has referred her report to the ethics committee of parliament, which is likely to investigate further.
“Their findings will determine what happens next, but this also doesn’t stop members of parliament applying for a motion of no-confidence to the speaker,” she added. “It’s not certain that that will happen but it’s certainly an option, at this point.”
The public protector also found that the manner in which the donation was channelled through several accounts, including the account of the Ramaphosa campaign, raised suspicions of money laundering.