South African President Cyril Ramaphosa misled parliament: Ethics watchdog

File photo of Cyril Ramaphosa. Photograph:( Reuters )

AFP Johannesburg, South Africa Jul 19, 2019, 05.29 PM (IST)

South Africa's ethics watchdog on Friday said President Cyril Ramaphosa misled parliament last year over a 500,000 rand donation to his campaign fund from a company facing extensive corruption allegations.

The country's ombudswoman Busisiwe Mkhwebane, said her investigations had shown that the president gave parliament "erroneous" information when he first responded to an opposition question over the October 2017 donation. 

The money was given towards his campaign for the presidency of the ruling ANC party but Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers that the payment was to his son Andile for consultancy work for Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

Ramaphosa later admitted that it was a donation towards his campaign to become African National Congress party leader -- a hard-fought battle in which he beat ex-president Jacob Zuma's chosen candidate.

In a report released on Friday, Mkhwebane said, "Although President Ramaphosa may have justified correcting 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".

Mkhwebane said the way the funds were moved around from one account to another, before it was deposited into Ramaphosa's campaign account, raised suspicion of money laundering. 

She has asked the country's prosecution authority to investigate whether that was the case.

Ramaphosa, who has promised to pay back the campaign funds, has denied wrongdoing.

After taking over from Zuma, Ramaphosa was elected South African President in May, staking his reputation on fighting corruption in a nation smarting from the graft scandal-tainted tenure of Zuma. 

Story highlights

In a report released on Friday, country's ombudswoman Busisiwe Mkhwebane said, 'Although President Ramaphosa may have justified correcting the earlier statement on erroneous or incomplete information at his disposal, he indeed misled parliament.'