Timing of political party funding bill draws the ire of opposition

Johannesburg – President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the bill which seeks to regulate public and private funding of political parties, but not all parties are convinced about the timing and intention of the “late signing”.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko confirmed the bill, which was signed on January 21, would come into effect later this year.

Under the present dispensation, donations to political parties remain a secret known only to the individual parties and this secrecy is said to be behind allegations of bribes and corruption involving tenders and kickbacks to politicians.

A case in point involves Bosasa’s alleged donation of R500000 to Cyril Ramaphosa’s ANC presidential campaign in 2017. In the same year the now defunct VBS Mutual Bank is said to have paid R703500 to transport Limpopo ANC members to the Nasrec conference.

In 2018, investigative journalist Jacques Pauw alleged the EFF received donations from tobacco syndicates: a R1million loan from Adriano Mazzotti’s business partner Kyle Phillips to settle EFF leader Julius Malema’s tax bill and R200000 paid by tobacco company Carnilinx to register the EFF as a political party for the 2014 elections.

In 2013, then-DA leader Helen Zille admitted receiving R400000 worth of donations from Gupta associates and companies: R200000 from Sahara Computers executive director Stefan Nel for the 2009 election campaign, another R100000 from Nel and R100000 electronic funds transfer from Island Investments.

The DA said it remained resolute in its position on the parliamentary debate where the party opposed My Vote Counts’ 2017 application, which asked the court to rule private political party funding information be made public.

“Many donors believe they will be disadvantaged or intimidated if their donations to an opposition party were to become public,” said DA spokesperson Solly Malatsi.

DA leader Mmusi Maimane also welcomed Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s decision to investigate whether Ramaphosa misled Parliament on the “donation” from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson.

ANC acting national spokesperson Dakota Legoete said the party supported the bill. “The ANC is a major proponent for many reasons including transparency and protecting the state against regime change activities that are funded by external forces,” said Legoete, adding that the ANC initiated the state capture inquiry to hold those involved in corrupt activities accountable.

EFF leader Julius Malema said they would challenge a provision that prohibits members of political parties from receiving donations.

“If they want to proceed like that, we have no option but to take them to court. But we welcome it (the bill) and we wished it came earlier because there was not going to be a siyanqoba (victory) rally of the ANC,” said Malema.

UDM president Bantu Holomisa said the bill would close the gap between big parties and small parties. “All funding from businesses should not go to a certain political party only, but should be sent to the IEC so that they share it for every party,” said Holomisa.

Cope spokesperson Dennis Bloem accused Ramaphosa of delaying the bill. “We question why the president delayed signing the bill into law, knowing full well that time was needed to operationalise the act. The only conclusion that we can reach is that the president and the ANC had no desire to make the funds public as it would expose the ANC for what it is, corrupt and captured,” said Bloem.

Political analyst Professor Tinyiko Maluleke raised concerns about implementation.

“I don’t know if there is enough time to implement it and to make sure that it counts for this election. But I think it’s a good thing that we have it. It will help us in that there won’t be many improprieties as we are getting to learn about,” said Maluleke.

“Funders who may not want to be known may reduce their funding And if they reduce their funding because they don’t want to be known, then my thoughts are that smaller parties will lose the most because they will depend on voluntary funding more than the bigger parties who may have other means of fund-raising.”

Sunday Independent

107900259 - Timing of political party funding bill draws the ire of opposition

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