22 April 2019

South Africa: One Political Party Reveals a Donation but Others Are Unwilling to Go Public

Photo: warrenski/Flickr
IEC voting station (file photo).

Even though political parties have been preaching transparency, most parties remain unwilling to declare their funders to the electorate voluntarily.

This means voters will have to rely on manifestos, track records and gut feelings as they make their way to the polls.

Initially, the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) hoped that the Political Party Funding Act, which President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law in January, would be implemented in a staggered process from April 1.

However, this had to be delayed after the IEC received more than 5 000 public comments.

News24 sent several political parties questions on party funding and asked if they were willing to disclose their funders.

Some would only reveal the information if others did so too. Others said they wouldn't do so right now and a few opted to wait until the law specified that they should.

Of the seven parties News24 approached, only one was willing to disclose at least one donation.

African National Congress (ANC)

The ANC said it believed in transparency and the disclosing of the political funding.

"The Bill that is signed into law by the state president is a position of the ANC," said Legoete.

However, Legoete added the ANC could not be expected to "to willy-nilly account to the media before it accounts to its membership through the processes availed by the organisation to do so."

In terms of the ANC's constitution, the party's audited financial statements are presented at elective conferences, so they do account, he said.

These financials must then go through the internal structures of the ANC before they are made public, he added.

He also suggested that companies listed on the JSE be asked the same because it will "help a great deal".

Democratic Alliance (DA)

Instead of responding to News24's questions individually, the party issued a statement in which it touched on some of the issues raised.

The DA's James Selfe said the party's attitude to political funding had been consistent.

"We have given our donors the assurance that their donations would remain confidential if that is what they wished. This is because many donors believe, rightly or wrongly, that they will be disadvantaged or intimidated were the fact that they donated to an opposition party become public," Selfe said.

He added that their fundraisers were bound by ethical guidelines: they may not promise preferment or contracts.

"Any fundraiser who is in executive office must be accompanied by another member of the Party to ensure that no unethical undertakings are made."

But like the ANC, the DA was also not willing to disclose funders just yet.

Rather, Selfe said it would wait for the promulgation of the act and would abide by its provisions.

The act, Selfe added, was not a solution to rooting out corruption though.

African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP)

The ACDP reckons that political parties should reveal their funders without any law forcing them to do so. However, it feels it would be unfair if some parties took this route and others did not.

"In theory yes. The problem is that if some do and some don't, the few funders that we have will come under such a big spotlight , it would be very unfair. Funders need to know that from a given date, their donations will be public," ACDP spokesperson Keeno Petersen said.

Peterson did, however, reveal that most of their funders were individuals rather than businesses and most of the donations were less than R5 000.

"The business funders are those that fund all parties proportionately. There are one or two that do work for other parties or government and they have donated in their private capacity. They deserve protection or they lose business. There is no gain for them to donate to the ACDP."

National Freedom Party (NFP)

The NFP believes that political parties should be accountable and transparent without a law forcing them to do so.

NFP spokesperson Simo Mkhwanazi said the party was willing to disclose its funders but apparently didn't have anyone who was privately funding the organisation.

Freedom Front Plus (FF Plus)

In short, the FF Plus is ready to show the electorate who funds its operations. The only catch was that the party was willing to do so if other parties did the same.

"If you are the only party disclosing your funds it will be a disadvantage for the party when it comes to donations. Legislation ensuring all parties do so, makes the playing fields level," FF Plus leader Pieter Groenewald said.

Congress of the People (C ope )

Cope took the same stance as the FF Plus.

"Political parties must make their funding public immediately. They must not wait for the legislation. This deters corruption and state capture," Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem told News24.

"Yes [to disclosing Cope's funding], provided that all political parties do the same. It must be a level playing field."

Bloem added that Cope supported the adoption of the Bill and had publicly called for Ramaphosa to enact it.

"Without transparency in respect of party funding, how can we say that all parties are contesting elections on a level playing field and/or that the elections will be free and fair?"

United Democratic Movement (UDM)

The UDM was the only party willing to disclose any funding received.

In a short WhatsApp exchange with UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, he disclosed that MTN had donated R250 000 to the party.

News24 has not verified this donation and was not presented with supporting documentation.

He added that they were also arranging credit facilities with service providers, presumably to campaign for the upcoming elections.

Holomisa said the UDM has been calling for a political funding to be made public since 1999.

He said political parties had a choice when it came to the disclosure of funding sources, without being forced to by a law.

"It's their choice. I've just declared mine."

Source: News24

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