NEWS & ANALYSIS

CR17: Time for speedy implementation of Political Party Funding Act - R2K

Organisation says manner in which these ‘revelations’ have come to light is troubling

R2K Statement on Reports on CR17 Campaign Financing!

12 August 2019

The Right2Know Campaign welcomes the recent revelations about the campaign contributions to ANC President Cyril Ramaphosa’s pre-NASREC campaign for the presidency of that party. It has lifted the lid on the very close relationship between political parties, politicians and wealthy benefactors. It has also shone a light on how much money is spent in pursuit of political ambition and office. This applies both within political parties and in the public political competitions, namely our elections. While it is true that contesting any election costs money, it is also clear that from the staggering sums involved in just one party’s internal election, some of that money may also be given in order to influence political decisions. For this reason, the private donations to a governing party or a significant opposition party are of interest to the public. 

The Right2Know, My Vote Counts and many other civil society organisations have campaigned for many years for greater transparency in how all political parties are funded and especially in who their large private donors are. We have therefore welcomed the passage of the Political Party Funding Act into law at the beginning of this year; we call on the IEC to finalise the regulations so that the Act may be implemented - and political parties become obliged to open up their books to greater scrutiny and reporting. Under the Act, donations to a candidate in an internal election battle must also be disclosed. If the Act had been operational in 2017, it would have meant that all of the amounts and the donors to President Ramaphosa’s internal campaign would have been reported - as well as those to his rival, (Minister) Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma. Indeed, all twelve candidates for the Top Six positions would have to be scrutinised. This would equally apply to the major opposition parties - the DA, the EFF, the IFP, and their internal elective conferences - because of the potential influence they hold in various provinces and on the national stage. 

We would, therefore, caution the public not to fall foul of the internal competition and factional battles being waged within any party; we should be privy to all of the information - not just the information on one candidate. Only where that is available will we be able to make up our own mind about how compromised any politician - or any party - is. We have the right to know just how indebted those who seek our support come election time are too big corporate interests or worse still, just how beholden they may be to wealthy individuals. 

Further, we are troubled by the manner in which these ‘revelations’ have come to light. We are also concerned about the speculative nature of how they have been reported on in the media. At risk is the integrity of our democratic institutions. The leaked emails have called into question the integrity of the Public Protector’s investigation - and the protection of information that ought to be kept confidential through that process.  There are questions about how properly the information was obtained, and whether that information could be relied upon even to take the remedial action proposed by the Public Protector. The leaking of very specific information in a matter that is before the courts raises some questions about the intention behind the leaks. 

We are concerned that regardless of the outcome of the case, damage has been done to the integrity of the Office of the Presidency (because of the incumbent) and of the integrity of the Office of the Public Protector (because of the incumbent). This inevitable questioning will do much to erode an already tenuous public confidence and trust in the institutions that are meant to promote and protect our democracy. This case has highlighted just how the actions within a political party, which is to some extent a private body, can have serious consequences for the public political sphere. Political parties must, therefore, be subjected to greater scrutiny and accountability to the public. 

Our constitutional democracy rests on at least 3 pillars: the rule of law, strong institutions, and trustworthy processes. Seven wasted years of hollowing out our public institutions have left us all very susceptible to the undermining of all three of those pillars. It is therefore important that in this matter all three of those pillars be respected by all parties.  

We call for the speedy implementation of the Political Party Funding Act and its Regulations; 

We call for the voluntary reporting by all parties of their private donations over the past 12 months to the IEC within the framework proposed by the Political Party Funding Act; 

We call on the urgent finalisation of the judicial review into the Public Protector’s report so that we might be clear on whether there was any wrongdoing, and the nature of that wrongdoing; and 

We call for the urgent start of a national dialogue on electoral reform, including the right to recall those holders of public office who are incompetent or make themselves guilty of corrupt and/or criminal activity

Issued by Ghalib Galant, R2K Deputy National Coordinator:, 12 August 2019