President, prevent further delays of Party Funding Act – MVC

Act would contribute towards a fairer funding regime for all parties in Parliament

Prevent further delays in Party Funding Act promulgation, President Ramaphosa

21 May 2019

This morning My Vote Counts (MVC) wrote to President Cyril Ramaphosa to urge His Excellency to prevent further delays in the promulgation of the Political Party Funding Act (the Act). This was in response to an article published in the Mail & Guardian on 10 May that relayed the most recent positions of the two largest political parties, the Democratic Alliance (DA) and the African National Congress (ANC), in relation to the Act.

High-ranking officials from both parties expressed the intention to call for the Act’s review in the sixth Parliament. The then Political Party Funding Bill has already been before the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces. Thereafter it was signed by the President in January 2019 without a date gazetted for promulgation. The Act should now be at the final stage as civil society anticipates a date for the public hearings before the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the Act’s regulations. However, if the Act is once again brought before Parliament, civil society and the public will witness what is clearly an intentional delay in promulgating legislation which would deliver continuous and systematic private funding transparency legislation that South Africa’s Constitution entitles the public to access.

The M&G report highlighted the deceptive reasoning these party officials used to justify a delay in the Act’s implementation. Both officials stated that the need to review the Act is based on its supposed direct and negative impact on political parties’ ability to raise funds for their election campaigns. However, the collective spending of all 48 political parties who contested the recent general elections has reportedly cost an estimated R2 billion. The ANC reportedly spent around R1 billion on their campaign, the DA reportedly spent R600 million and the other 46 parties reportedly spent a combined total of R400 million. These numbers show how both the two largest parties enjoyed a huge amount of private funding to boost their election campaigns.

MVC’s letter also challenged arguments made by the relevant party officials who placed emphasis on how smaller parties, in particular, suffered to raise funds as a result of the Act. Firstly, it is dangerously misleading to direct blame on any parties’ ability to raise private funding on an Act that is yet to be implemented. Secondly, the election results also showed how, new and older, small parties were able to gain seats in Parliament. Thirdly, if the Act is implemented, smaller parties would significantly benefit from a new provision which would increase their share in private funding.

In the absence of the Act, 90% of the total annual public funding allocation to parties is distributed in proportion to seats a party holds in Parliament and 10% is distributed equitably to all parties in Parliament. If the Act is implemented, this formula would allow for the “proportional allocation” to come to two-thirds of the total annual public funding and 10% equitably reserved for parties in Parliament. Therefore, the Act would contribute towards a fairer funding regime for all parties in Parliament.

Last year, MVC commended the speed at which the Act was drafted and went through both Parliament’s National Assembly and National Council of Provinces. We have also previously acknowledged the pressure the IEC was under in terms of financial and capacity constraints and that that Act should be implemented effectively in order for the IEC to build public trust. However, civil society and the public cannot exercise further patience. Currently, the Act’s promulgation lies in the hands of the President. The President has the power to regress, or exercise his agency in bringing South Africans closer to a more transparent and accountable political and electoral system. There cannot be a “New Dawn” without the necessary transparency and accountability that the Act would deliver.

Issued by Sheilan Clarke, Communications Officer, MVC, 21 May 2019