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.
While Ramaphosa is likely to challenge Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s findings in court, the dispute will embolden his opponents within the ruling African National Congress and make it harder for him to cement his control over the party and push through economic reforms.
The president has said he didn’t know about a R500,000 ($36,000) payment services company Bosasa made to his campaign to win control of the ANC in 2017 and he had inadvertently failed to disclose it.
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 president’s opponents in a power struggle in the ruling party. She denies the allegations.
As of April, almost a third of the reports issued since Mkhwebane took office in 2016 were facing legal challenges. Mkhwebane’s office has said that some of the criticism is aimed at undermining her investigations.