Is the ANC selling out our sovereignty?

James Myburgh
24 March 2009

James Myburgh on the dangers of the ANC using foreign funding to buy its way to a two-thirds majority

For some time now it has been clear that the African National Congress has been running the best election campaign that money can buy. Compared to the other political parties, which have had to scrape together funds to contest the elections, South Africa's ruling party seems to have an almost bottomless war chest.

Some of the sources of the ANC's advantages in fundraising are known. The ANC, due to the current size of its parliamentary majority, receives some seventy percent of government funding - although it is not allowed to spend this on electioneering per se. Most corporate funders allocate the bulk of their political party funding to the ANC, although opposition parties receive a greater or lesser share as well.

The ANC has also, over the years, pursued various surreptitious funding schemes which may or may not have borne fruit in this election. Yet it seems that much of the ANC's massive, and possibly overwhelming, expenditure on this election campaign originates from foreign sources. On Friday the Mail & Guardian quoted "party insiders" as saying the ANC's election effort has been "heavily subsidised by the ruling parties in Libya, Angola, China and India." It has also apparently received funds from Equatorial Guinea.

This report seems to have been little noticed, which is surprising as this kind of funding poses as much, if not more of, a threat to South Africa's democracy than the efforts to subvert the National Prosecuting Authority. There are self-evident problems with this kind of funding. For one thing, for the ANC to actively solicit such donations obviously compromises South Africa's national security (defined as the continued ability of the country "to pursue the development of its internal life without serious interference ... from foreign powers.") For another, it poses clear dangers for the consolidation of democracy in this country.

It is for such reasons that many democracies ban foreign donations outright. In the United States - according to a Federal Electoral Commission brochure - the Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) "prohibits any foreign national from contributing, donating or spending funds in connection with any federal, state, or local election in the United States, either directly or indirectly. It is also unlawful to help foreign nationals violate that ban or to solicit, receive or accept contributions or donations from them. Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment."

Such prohibitions apply in many other countries as well. In 2003 the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (IDEA) produced a useful handbook on political party funding across the world (see here). It states that foreign donations to political parties were banned in forty out of the 111 countries surveyed. Among the countries where ANC-style foreign fundraising would be illegal were: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Estonia, France, Germany, Honduras, Iceland, Japan, Latvia, Mexico, Portugal, Russia, Senegal, Thailand, and the United Kingdom.

The IDEA handbook notes that foreign funding of political parties presents the most "obvious danger" of all sources of party funding: "If a governing party depends heavily on financial resources provided by foreign governments or especially multinational corporations, their influence may undermine national sovereignty and the democratic principle of self-determination."

The ANC's 1994 and 1999 election campaigns were largely financed with donations from foreign countries, including some of the world's most notorious dictatorships. One result has been the serial neglect by the ANC government of South Africa's national interests in foreign policy (not to mention human rights considerations) as its first priority has always been to repay its main funders with favours. At various points over the past fifteen years the ANC has been in hock to the regimes of Nigeria, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Libya, China, and Taiwan (see here). And these are just the ones we know about.

Foreign funding seems to have dried up before the 2004 poll after Nelson Mandela stopped tapping foreign leaders on the ANC's behalf following his fallout with Thabo Mbeki. But, according to the Mail & Guardian ANC President Jacob Zuma has now successfully used his visits to various fraternal ruling parties overseas to do some fund raising on the side. This may already be compromising the ability of South Africa to pursue its own interests, free of external interference. If the M&G and COPE are correct - and the Chinese Communist Party is helping to pay for the ANC's 2009 election campaign - the obvious question is whether this underpinned the government's otherwise inexplicable decision to refuse the Dalai Lama a visa to attend a conference in this country?

In its section on party funding in Africa the IDEA handbook notes that those sources of funding most incompatible with democracy are "kickbacks from recipients of government contracts and other largesse, diverting state resources to the governing party through front organizations, and donations from foreign sources such as business owners, multinationals and governments." In addition in many African countries "the use and abuse of state resources is a corrupt form of massive public funding... available only to the governing party."

The advantages that can accrue to ruling parties are a major contributing factor to democratic atrophy in Africa. As IDEA notes: "In many African countries Governing parties' use of state resources, with evident impunity, and their brazen demand for and acceptance of kickbacks explain much of the apparent electoral impregnability of many African governing parties, even those with clear records of economic and human rights failures. They manage to build such formidable electoral war chests that their impoverished opponents usually have little chance."

Apart from donations from foreign sources, there is already much evidence in the public domain of the ANC using these other dubious means to advantage itself and secure its position. The dangers for democracy in South Africa are also similar. At a time when this country should be looking forward to a more pluralistic and responsive democracy - and the ruling party to a much reduced majority - the ANC may succeed in simply buying its way back to a two-thirds majority.

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 responses to this article

What gives?

James, the ANC has always been funded by foreign governments, at least since Sharpeville, and perhaps even before. The Soviets gave huge amounts of aid. In the West, the Swedes and Dutch were and probably still are consistent . .more

by JVR on March 24 2009, 04:51
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spot the mistake
The U.S. bans foreign contributions.
Ok. Fine
But don't you listen to the rhetoric of our political atavars when they struggle up onto their hind legs and start talking about the african continent as consisting of an unbroken chain of . .more

by Plutarch on March 24 2009, 08:03
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Has things gone so far that the ruling party can no longer see the wood for the trees.
The ANC, apart from their instrument Malema, are intellegent people but somehow they have lost their moral compass. The only explanation can be that the entire organisation is self serving and merely pays lip service to a mostly politically illiterate . .more

by Albie on March 24 2009, 08:06
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Foreign political funding must be stopped at all cost, we rather pay them from our own treasury
Political Parties in South Africa should not be allowed to raise funding from foreigners, call it zenophobia if you like, but if this is allowed, we might as well tranfer the Union Building to Beijing or Washington whoever has the greatest purse open to . .more

by Mpho on March 24 2009, 08:46
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Sovereignty, dictatorship and slavery
The ANC is funded by dictators and countries that use slave labour -- among others, Sausi Arabia and China.

Yet so-called democratis support the ANC. The SACP and COSATU support the ANC, even though the importation of goods produced by slave . .more

by Seth on March 24 2009, 08:48
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You think the Blacks had it bad under Apartheid???? Wait till you see what those commy-Chinese have in mind!

by Johnny V on March 24 2009, 08:50
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The problem with democracy is that it can ONLY be successful if there is a power shared between multiple parties. ANC's 2/3 majority is anti-democracy. As much as they say claim to be democratic, ALL their actions point to keeping a few people in power . .more

by vims on March 24 2009, 09:01
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It is the ANC's protocol to ....
act in breach of any law, by-law, et al. So the statement that "Persons who knowingly and willfully engage in these activities may be subject to fines and/or imprisonment", hold no water whatsoever for the ANC, since the party only considers it a . .more

by Sipho on March 24 2009, 09:28
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Lost all respect for the ANC.
I was actually going to vote for the ANC, but after this development, theres no way in hell they getting my vote. What are they smoking to allow a foreign government to dictate who get's to visit our country and who shouldn't.

Mbeki would have . .more

by darkchild on March 24 2009, 09:42
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Sore losers
You've said it yourself, James: If you don't have the suss, you will throw money at a problem without solving it. What makes the difference with the ANC is not money and it never has been. Money can't buy you love. The ANC is smart and it is popular and . .more

by Domza on March 24 2009, 09:50
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Two more worms in the ANC woodwork.
If Zuma or Mbeki went overseas on party political business, to shop for donations, who paid for their tickets? We have already had PUBLICISED instances of ANC bigwigs using state resources for their own overseas shopping trips.

The link between . .more

by Theseus on March 24 2009, 09:59
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Have you also noticed that many of the G-vehicles which you have referred to, are driven by gentleman of indian descent! Obviously they are keeping their options open in order to try and avoid being necklaced by their darker compatriots which was the . .more

by Mpumalanga on March 24 2009, 10:06
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China Syndrome
Can't wait for the elections to be finished then we will see the Chinese climb into business and government policy decisions - showerhead and his cronies are going to have to pay their tithe and more to the puppet masters.
Another 5 years of rule by . .more

by V Lucky Ndlovu on March 24 2009, 10:22
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@ Zola
Very smart Zola! I'm sure you knowwhat you meant. You seem to be a product of ANC education. I SAY EDUCATE THE MASSES ! so that they can be liberated.

by Georgie on March 24 2009, 10:34
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ANC gangsters sold our Beloved Country!!!
They disbanded Scorpions so that the ministers can push drugs; the NEC has joined the "Std 3 Clown" in singing war songs (Mshini wami) and today you have taxi drivers (mainly Zulus) blocking hard working SA from getting to work; and these taxi drivers are . .more

by Mute Fool on March 24 2009, 10:40
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dom za
are you crazy Domza. The ANC is ONLY about money.

by js on March 24 2009, 10:46
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The ANC are the worst nightmare possible
Who would have thought that after that wonderful great man Mandela we would get this lot of incompetent corrupt people. SA will go bust just like Zimbabwe did. And what they did to the Dalai Lama is appalling. That they actually think we believe their . .more

by P******* ANC on March 24 2009, 10:51
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by ZOLA on March 24 2009, 10:57
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All the crazies are here
But they don't have a lot of votes.

by Domza on March 24 2009, 10:58
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That nose can't be real at the top of this page.
Please tell me that pic is distorted

by Bemused on March 24 2009, 11:15
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Most uninspiring photo
...this chap wants us to vote for him and yet he's been ducking and diving over critical issues. Today the country is held at ransom by taxi drivers and the guy is negotiating billion dollar funding for a political party. Talk of self- preservation. The . .more

by KeeG on March 24 2009, 11:42
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I wonder
how much funds are channeled from China to bank accounts in Switzerland.....Hope the ANC is aware that the Swiz are being forced by US / Euro to be more open in the future in whose got what hidden in their bank faults. Sorry to say, but for many in the . .more

by gd on March 24 2009, 11:45
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Of course its real
The ANC are well known for being very big in the 'brown nose' arena. Presently they are using their brown snouts very effectively with China by keeping the Dalai Lama out.

by LOL on March 24 2009, 11:47
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@ Zola
OK Zola you got me hook, line and sinker. Good One! I can be so naive at times - I should have noticed that you're just having a bit of fun.

by Georgie on March 24 2009, 11:49
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Guys, lets all go to the DA Young Professionals meeting at Newlands Cricket ground tonight and start some real change. 6 for 6:30. Press room near Kelvin Grove.

by Dre on March 24 2009, 12:15
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Ban or full disclosure
As long America receives Chinese investments, and for as long as the Chinese economy is the biggest consumer of our commodities perhaps we should be thinking with our minds and not emotions.

SA govt is going to have to walk a fine line between . .more

by Gambu on March 24 2009, 12:50
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Dalai Lama loses out
Quite clear really. The refusal to issue visa to Dalai Lama has nothing to do with 2010 world cup, little to do with trade with China, but lots to do about Chinese funding of the ANC election.

by Lurcher on March 24 2009, 13:10
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@Zola and Domza!!
You and your ANC cronies (Buti, JZ, Tokyo, Phosa, Malema) should relocate to Zim where there are no "Western Masters". You are good radical statements and war songs and i bet my top dollar you must be failures @ school like Malema!!!

by Mute Fool on March 24 2009, 13:47
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@ Lurcher
Duuuuuuuuhhhhhhhhhh !

by Dalai Lama on March 24 2009, 13:51
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Aha - you beat me to it Lurcher!!! Wonder what Beijing paid (and to whom???) for the Dalai fiasco. Quo Vadis beloved country?

by SMELL A RAT - AGAIN on March 24 2009, 13:53
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Money is the root of all ANC decisions
If the ANC can abuse its power to block the Dalai Lama's right to visit SA it is capable of trying to abuse its power over the NPA to block Zuma's charges.
If the ANC can abuse its power to pressurise the NPA to keep Zuma out of court it can abuse its . .more

by C on March 24 2009, 13:58
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The Animal Farm story unfolds...
as predicted when I was 17, now 61. INVEST OFFSHORE!

by George Unwell on March 24 2009, 14:37
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De You Nah Have it!
What? We are a sovereign country? Goodness...that almost sounded good. No frankly we are not. ANC has made sure that we are beholden to its interests, which are subject to the interests of its funders. ANC are Ngugi wa Thiongo's compradore colonists! The . .more

by Papadi on March 24 2009, 15:02
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ZOLA- Defend, consolidate, Advance!

Aah, so straight from Cosatu's 6th Conference 1997 - The commies are on the march!

ZOLA, you blame the Americans and Britons (and by extension the Canadians, Australians and New Zealanders) for "imperialism" and for "funding the opposition" . .more

by JVR on March 24 2009, 15:36
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Hey Zola!!!!
"VOTE ANC TO CONTINUE TO ADVANCE A JUST COURSE SINCE IT CHAMPIONS THE ASPIRATIONS OF THE POOR FROM ITS INCEPTION IN 1912" I vote like I invest - based on track record. How can you vote for a party who has failed to deliver on their promisses for ALMOST A . .more

by Johnny V on March 24 2009, 15:48
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Funding of the ANC
Have we forgotten Petrogate? No need to rely on foreign funding, they have BEE and control of public funds - also through parastatals.
There is no doubt that China is bankrolling Luthuli House, and he who pays the piper, calls the tune - as is evident . .more

by ADP on March 24 2009, 16:21
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@ George Unwell
How can you invest off shore when the bloody foreign markets are in a shambles? unlsess you want to part with your money, I recommen you look for alternative places to put you money in THIS country, nowhere else. Your children will benefit in the long . .more

by trocc on March 24 2009, 16:28
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So Domza,,,,,,crazies ? ,,,,,can we assume that you agree with what the Chinese have done in Tibet

by ack on March 24 2009, 16:56
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Purple in the face
Take Magenta, Ack. He's busting bloodvessels. How many votes do you think he is going to get for the Desperate Alliance by behaving like that? Totally doolally.

Concerning Tibet, I have just been reading something on Counterpunch, a fine web site . .more

by Domza on March 24 2009, 19:17
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Domza, `Craaaaazies' and Tibet
ack, Domza is an oke who admits to cheering on the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968. The obliteration of Tibet, a nasty, backward, feudal --- i.e. non communist --- society is small potatoes for a man like Domza.

by Gus Gosling on March 24 2009, 19:49
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For the uninitiated,,,,,CounterPunch is a biweekly newsletter published in the United States that covers politics in a manner its editors describe as "muckraking with a radical attitude".

by ack on March 24 2009, 20:12
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The ANC never had a moral compass, not then, and not now.

And believe me, Malema is the most intelligent of the lot - his pronouncements, which so infuriates many whites, always contains an elemental kernel of truth. It is crazy not to see this . .more

by JVR on March 24 2009, 20:27
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The Nose!
Are you all stupid?? With his background the nose can only be the result of having to keep all his wives happy, I-SIES-WE!

by Compadre on March 24 2009, 21:55
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All the funds must be paid into one account and all parties must get the same amount for the elections.

Then and only then you can talk about fair elections.

by Alkie on March 25 2009, 09:00
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Yea you're right. I was clutching at straws

by Albie on March 25 2009, 10:50
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A mess
Mad Bob stuffed up Zim in less than 20 years, bet JZ does it in less.

by Worried on April 06 2009, 09:53
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ANC has chosen Ex Nigerian Pres to oversee elections!
I am a little concerned that ANC is going to try its usual tactics to get two thirds, by cooking the books at elections. It has even brought in Obisanio of Nigeria to oversee that elections are "free and fair". What does that tell you? I pray they dont . .more

by Antony on April 21 2009, 13:19
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