South Africa: Secret Funding of Political Parties Is the Chink in Our Constitution's Armour


South Africa's Constitution is widely recognised as one of the most enlightened in the world, being the product of years of public participation and transparency. There is a chink in its armour though, and it's one that allows political parties to get away with funding obfuscation.

When South Africa's Constitution was adopted in 1996, it was hailed as one of the most enlightened and progressive in the world. It was a product of at least seven years of extensive public participation. Our Constitution took shape in the open. A full generation later, we can all be proud that its robustness has stood the test of time.

But our near-perfect Constitution had one serious shortcoming: it did not regulate the funding of political parties. In particular, it did not explicitly prohibit the practice of political parties keeping their sources of funding secret. It also placed no limitation on who a party may accept money from or in what amounts.

The reason this happened was that every party in the 1996 Constitutional Assembly was opposed to regulation of their funding. Unfortunately, those of us who were in favour of constitutionally entrenched controls on party funding lost the battle at the time.


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