ACDP says political party funding bill a victory for multiparty democracy

The ACDP welcomes the Political Party Funding Bill which aims to regulate and make private donations to political parties represented in Parliament and Provincial Legislatures,  transparent. The extensive public consultations and hearings and the tabling of this bill today is the culmination thirteen years of efforts by many – and not least of all – the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) which filed a notice of motion in the Western Cape High Court on November 15 2004, seeking an order that legislation should require political parties to disclose the details of all funding that they receive.

The ACDP notes with some satisfaction that this historic Bill, brings to an end a culture of secrecy surrounding the funding of political parties, both pre- and post-1994.  Because it has never been clear who finances those who represent us in Parliament it has never been clear exactly whose interests parties are prioritising. So much has been about ‘blind party loyalty’ and ‘how the story is manipulated and framed to catch media attention’.  Being told what to think from every angle, it is difficult for the public to remain clear on what is, in fact, in their best interests.

While the Bill aims to create a comprehensive legislative framework for the funding of political parties, the Constitutional value of transparency reigns supreme and this new legislation will require political parties to disclose the amounts and sources of donations above R100 000 per donor during any one financial year. Political parties will be required to present this information in a report to the Independent Electoral Commission, which will publish the reports on a quarterly basis. At the same time disclosure will be required by donors, to ensure that political parties are accurately reporting.

The ACDP commends Parliament and in particular the committee chaired by ANC MP Vincent Smith on a job well done and for ensuring that, if it is passed today, South Africa’s party funding legislation will be among the most ‘transparent and accountable’ in the world.

The ACDP, like many others, is all too aware of the potential however, for donors to be less likely to donate and risk public censure if they cannot retain anonymity and we welcome the new Multiparty Democracy Fund, created to provide a solution to this problem. The fund will receive donations from anonymous donors, as well as donors who do not wish to donate funds to a particular political party and all parties in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures will get a percentage based in part, on the proportionality of seats held by political parties across these legislatures.

Since 1994, parties have of course, received annual allocations of public funds but on a “90/10 split” – this Bill now provides for the allocation to be – two-thirds (66.7%) based on proportionality and one third (33.3%) equally, benefitting smaller parties and giving them a greater chance of reaching their potential voters.

This legislation is a real victory for multiparty democracy and the ACDP wholeheartedly supports this initiative which we believe will strengthen and preserve the important diversity of views across parties in our Parliament.”


FURTHER INFORMATION

  • The Bill bans certain categories of donors, including state-owned enterprises and organs of state and donations from foreign governments and foreign government agencies.
  • An upper limit of R15-million per donor per year is stipulated and the cap on foreign donations is R5-million per year.
  • Parties that fail to comply with the provisions of the Bill are subject to penalties, including the suspension of public funding and administrative fines potentially in excess of R1 million.
  • Criminal offences are also entrenched in the Bill. For example, accepting donations from banned donors and concealing donations that are required to be disclosed are listed as criminal offences which could be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment.

SPEECH BY: CHERYLLYN DUDLEY MP
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY DEBATE: Political Party Funding Bill
27 March 2018