Upwelling hot mantle plumes are thought to disintegrate continental lithosphere and are considered to be drivers of active continental breakup. The formation of the Walvis Ridge during the opening of the South Atlantic is related to a putative plume-induced breakup. We investigated the crustal structure of the Walvis Ridge (southeast Atlantic Ocean) at its intersection with the continental margin and searched for anomalies related to the possible plume head. The overall structure we identify suggests that no broad plume head existed during opening of the South Atlantic and anomalous mantle melting occurred only locally. We therefore question the importance of a plume head as a driver of continental breakup and further speculate that the hotspot was present before the rifting, leaving a track of kimberlites in the African craton.