JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s anti-graft ombudsman ruled that President Cyril Ramaphosa violated the constitution and executive ethics code when he misled lawmakers about a campaign donation from a company implicated in paying bribes to senior government officials. The rand fell.
The ruling by the Public Protector against a sitting president is unprecedented, and starkly illustrates the challenges Ramaphosa has faced in bedding down political control since he succeeded Jacob Zuma as leader of the deeply divided ruling African National Congress in 2017.
The president has said he didn’t know about a 500,000-rand ($36,000) payment services company Bosasa made to his campaign to win control of the ANC, inadvertently failed to disclose it and rectified his mistake as soon as possible.
The rand weakened as much as 0.7% to 13.9441 against the dollar after the ruling was given, while yields on benchmark 2026 government bonds reversed a decline to rise three basis points to 8.01%.
The president “deliberately misled parliament in that he should have allowed himself sufficient time to research a well-informed response,” Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane told reporters in Pretoria, the capital. She referred the breach to parliament to take action, ordered Ramaphosa to disclose within 30 days details of all the donations he received and directed the police to investigate whether those who paid the donation were guilty of money laundering.
Ramaphosa has yet to receive the report and is unable to comment at this stage, his spokeswoman Khusela Diko said in a text message.
The courts have overturned several of Mkhwebane’s previous rulings and rebuked her for failing to stick to her constitutional mandate. Other critics have accused Mkhwebane, who served in the state security agency during the tenure of former President Jacob Zuma, of playing politics and siding with the Ramaphosa’s opponents in a power struggle in the ruling party. She denies the allegations and says some of the criticism is aimed at undermining her investigations.