It has been a year since President Cyril Ramaphosa signed into law the Political Party Financing Act (PPFA). But already the ruling party, the ANC, is proposing that the law be amended so that the threshold for disclosing party funding is increased.
The ANC proposed that:
- The current R100,000 threshold be increased to R250,000 or R500,000 per year; and
- The amount of R15 million that a single person or entity can donate can be increased to between R50 and R100 million.
The proposal was made by Ramaphosa on January 8.
The PPFA was enacted to improve transparency and accountability in South African politics.
“Implementation of the Political Party Financing Act will have far-reaching implications for good governance and ethical political activity,” Ramaphosa said last year.
“It will strengthen citizens’ confidence in the democratic political process and enable them to assert their right to information [and is] part of this administration’s commitment to improving transparency and accountability in government.
However, the ruling party seems to have backtracked on its own commitments and principles with the proposal to change the law. This in turn creates new opportunities for secrecy and corrupt influence in the country’s politics.
The ANC’s proposed amendments to the PPFA have not gone down well with some civil society organisations, including My Vote Counts, the Right2Know campaign, the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Defend our Democracy campaign and Open Secrets.
In a joint statement, these organizations argued that the ANC’s proposals undermine the PPFA and pose a threat to the country’s democracy.
“As Parliament begins to reopen and we approach the deadline for publishing the third round of political party funding disclosures, we are deeply concerned about attempts by political parties to repeal the groundbreaking Party Funding Act. political parties (PPFA). These attempts are not in the interest of the people. These are attempts to weaken our democracy and allow our politics to be more beholden to private interests,” the organizations said.
My Vote Counts said the law should be strengthened to continue to close spaces where secrecy in South African politics can exist and where private influence on politics is the order of the day.
“We know all too well the devastating consequences of secrecy in our politics, especially on worsening levels of inequality, poverty and unemployment.
“We call on political parties not to entertain attempts to extend or remove the thresholds that are the cornerstone of the PPFA. We call on political parties to put democracy and the interest of the people before their own interests.
“A law such as the PPFA should only be changed if it is found to be unconstitutional, does not exist in the interests of ordinary people, does not have the teeth to be robust enough or no longer serves its purpose. In this case, an attempt to change the law would simply benefit a small elite within the political parties.
MP DA Dion George said Daily Maverick“We do not support the ANC’s proposal and its continued failure to comply with the specific law. They first revealed to Chancellor House last year that they were hiding the source of the money received.
“The DA would not support more government money to fund political parties, in terms of increasing disclosure limits. The question should then be: what is the purpose of the act?
“The law doesn’t really work for the purpose it was intended; so… the ANC proposal could make the situation even worse. The DA originally did not support the law, but we have continued to comply. We didn’t think it was going to achieve the stated goals of making party donations more transparent and we thought it would be bad for democracy rather than good.
The issue of political party funding transparency is one that South Africa struggles with and is linked to numerous cases of corruption and state capture. This was explored in the findings of the Zondo Commission which showed how influence can be bought and the impact this has on government bidding and democratic processes, as reported Daily Maverick here.
For years the ANC has struggled to find solutions to its financial problems. At the end of last year, the ANC’s financial problems ranged from over R100 million owed to the SA tax department to massive debts of over R200 million, as reported Daily Maverickis Ray Mahlaka. This led to the irregular payment of wages to party workers. DM