Ramaphosa Broke Ethics Code, South African Graft Ombudsman Says
(Bloomberg) -- 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 weakened.
The finding 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 party, inadvertently failed to disclose it and rectified his mistake as soon as possible.
The rand weakened as much as 0.8% to 13.9499 against the dollar after the ruling was given, while yields on benchmark 2026 government bonds reversed a decline to rise six basis points to 8.03%.
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. Allegations that he exposed himself to the risk of a conflict of interest or used his position to enrich himself and his son, who had business dealing with Bosasa, were substantiated, she said.
Mkhwebane 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.
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 Zuma’s tenure, of playing politics and siding with 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.
The main opposition Democratic Alliance, which lodged the complaint against Ramaphosa, called for a special parliamentary committee to be established to decide on an appropriate sanction for the president.
“Mr. Ramaphosa must then be able to come and argue his case,” DA leader Mmusi Maimane told reporters in Cape Town.
Ramaphosa is still studying the report and deciding on a course of action, but regarded it as “unfortunate” that Mkhwebane didn’t give due consideration to his responses to her preliminary findings, which were factually and legally wrong, the Presidency said in an emailed statement.
“There are a number of issues that the public protector has gotten wrong,” said Lawson Naidoo, executive secretary of the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution. “I think this is yet another report of the Public Protector that will be taken on review.”
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