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S.Africa's Ramaphosa misled Parliament: ethics watchdog

Friday July 19 2019

Cyril Ramaphosa

Cyril Ramaphosa takes the oath of office at his inauguration as South African President, at Loftus Versfeld stadium in Pretoria, on May 25, 2019. PHOTO | SIPHIWE SIBEKO | AFP 

AFP
By AFP
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JOHANNESBURG,

South Africa's ethics watchdog on Friday said President Cyril Ramaphosa misled Parliament last year over a 500,000 rand ($36,000) 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 Mr Ramaphosa initially told lawmakers that the payment was to his son Andile for consultancy work for Bosasa, now known as African Global Operations (AGO).

Mr 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.

PROPER RESPONSE

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In a report released on Friday, Ms 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".

MONEY LAUNDERING

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

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

Mr 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.