R150m for political parties a pittance – Jackson Mthembu

ANC Chief Whip wants increase in public funding and also greater transparency on private donations

Cape Town - The African National Congress wants to increase public funding for political parties, and also greater transparency on the funding parties receive from private donors.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu on Thursday announced that the party will propose an ad hoc committee of Parliament to deal with this matter.

He said the effective functioning of political parties was fundamental to the promotion of constitutional democracy.

"Political parties require adequate funding in order to perform their functions and enhance democracy, and the manner and transparency of such funding are paramount in the context of building public confidence in our political system," Mthembu said.

He described the R150m that is proportionally shared among the parties represented in Parliament as a "pittance".

"Democracy is quite an expensive project."

He said this lead to an extensive reliance on private donations, which fuelled the perception that anonymous donations from business interests were a means to subvert democratic processes by influencing the awarding of contracts, and framing policy in a way which advanced private interests, thereby diluting citizens' voices and undermining the Constitution.

"Perceptions of undue influence and corruption are further fuelled by the absence of financial transparency amongst political parties. Currently, political parties are not required to disclose or report publicly on either the sources of their finances or the use to which funds are put," Mthembu said.

"There are people in this world that got money like dust, and they will not fund you for the priorities of this country."

According to Mthembu, disclosure rules and the exclusion of certain categories of donors could negate this perception.

'Influenced by civil society'

He said the ANC had accepted a resolution to these ends at its 2007 conference in Polokwane, which was reiterated at the following conference in Mangaung in 2012, but as of yet, nothing had been done about this.

He said these plans also came about after civil society raised concerns.

"We are influenced by civil society, that said to us: 'ANC, are you against transparency?,'" said Mthembu.

He said the ad hoc committee would be established to investigate the funding of political parties, with a view to introducing amending legislation if necessary.

It would consider the model of public funding for political parties, as well as the need for, and possible means of, regulating private funding of political parties in all its forms.

"We would not be speaking about this if we thought there were no prospects of success."

He raised the matter in the chief whips forum, representing all parties in Parliament, and the ANC would make a full presentation to this forum.

The next step is to refer the matter to Parliament's programming committee, which will put it on the National Assembly's programme.

He hopes that the committee will finish its work by December.