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Remembering reggae legend Lucky Dube (Photos)

To mark 10 years since Lucky Dube's death, his former recording company, Gallo Records, will release.

OPINION: Let's pass law to form multiparty democracy kitty to fund parties

By Mosibudi Mangena | 2017-10-12 10:38:17.0

For a long time now, many of us have been worried about the amount of money involved in our politics.

There is simply too much money spent by political parties in our system, especially during election campaigns. There was mention of a billion rands being spent by some parties for just one election.

The general idea is to hit the masses with glitz and awe. So, you hang posters on every pole and tree in the country, organise huge events in stadia where music stars would perform, bus in the masses, feed the multitudes, drape everybody in the stadium with party colours and get the leaders to make a grand entrance.

Advertisements are also placed in newspapers, on radio and television, social media and sent out to handsets via bulk SMS services.

All these cost an arm and a leg. Where do we think the money comes from? Some of it comes from genuine donations by wealthy individuals and businesses who want to promote democracy, but there is also a portion that emanates from questionable sources.

There's talk about how those who get tenders at the municipal, provincial and national government levels are visited and asked to regurgitate part of their payment from the tenders to finance party activities and election campaigns. They are promised more tenders in the future if they cough up enough.

It's therefore not surprising that there is tender fraud everywhere, and that certain people, with no known relevant track record, get tenders all the time. Are we not justified to complain about tender and other forms of corruption when we don't know who funds our political parties?

Two positive developments recently might go a long way towards curing this misdemeanour . The first is the tabling in parliament of a bill to regulate political party funding and introduce transparency in this otherwise opaque environment.

Inter alia, the law, if passed, should require political parties to disclose sources of private donations beyond a certain threshold, and provide for funding by the state of those parties that are represented in provincial and national parliaments. It should ban funding from foreign sources and state-owned enterprises.

The new law should provide for the formation of a multiparty democracy fund, to which private companies and individuals may contribute monies to promote democracy. The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would administer the fund and distribute the money among the parties represented in our parliaments.

The only two problems one sees with this arrangement is that we might be locking new entrants out of the parliamentary space since they would not have access to state funding or the multiparty democracy fund. The barrier into parliament might be too high if they are expected to finance themselves from their sources while the others get easy funding.

The second is that there is no curb on the amount of money political parties may spend on elections. In a middle-income country like ours, this distorts the political process and fuels corruption.

The other positive development was the ruling by Judge Yasmin Meer of the Western Cape High Court to the effect that, in the interest of voter empowerment, transparency and accountability, political parties should disclose sources of their funding. This is in line with the bill now before parliament.

One hopes that we would be able to implement these developments honestly, properly and diligently. Of late we have developed notoriety for soiling, defiling and degrading every good thing we touch.

State-owned enterprises are supposed to be assets that the state may use to provide services to the citizens and intervene in the economy in the interest of the population. But we know they are being turned into feeding troughs where the greedy gorge themselves.

Unions are a progressive phenomenon that should promote the interest of the workers, but more often than not they are used to intimidate others, kill those with a different opinion and trash cities. The list goes on.

It is to be hoped that this funding regime would be properly handled to advance democracy and healthy political activity in our country.

Companies and individuals should be able to promote democracy through funding in an open and transparent environment.