MPs support bill for political parties to declare their funders

EFF flag.
EFF flag.

Despite opposition from the Economic Freedom Fighters‚ the National Assembly has approved the Political Party Funding Bill - which regulates private donations to political parties represented in Parliament and the provincial legislatures.

The bill was passed at its sitting on Tuesday afternoon. The Bill will now go to the National Council of Provinces for consideration.

Donors who wish to remain anonymous can donate to a multiparty fund‚ as opposed to an individual political party.

The Bill also bans certain categories of donors‚ including state-owned enterprises and organs of state and donations from foreign governments and foreign government agencies‚ according to the African Christian Democratic Party's Cheryllyn Dudley

An upper limit of R15-million per donor per year is stipulated and the cap on foreign donations is R5-million per year.

Parties that fail to comply with the provisions of the Bill are subject to penalties‚ including the suspension of public funding and administrative fines potentially in excess of R1 million.

Criminal offences are also entrenched in the Bill. Dudley said: "For example‚ accepting donations from banned donors and concealing donations that are required to be disclosed are listed as criminal offences which could be punished by up to five years’ imprisonment."

In November last year‚ EWN reported that the EFF’s Thembinkosi Rawula said his party believes the bill will reproduce existing political power imbalances and is unconstitutional. He was quoted as saying: “The EFF will take the whole bill on judicial review if it is passed in its current form.”

Dudley‚ howver‚ hailed the bill as a victory for multiparty democracy.

"The extensive public consultations and hearings and the tabling of this bill today is the culmination 13 years of efforts by many‚" she said‚ particularly the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa) which filed a notice of motion in the Western Cape High Court in 2004‚ seeking an order that legislation should require political parties to disclose the details of all funding that they receive.

". . . This historic Bill brings to an end a culture of secrecy surrounding the funding of political parties‚ both pre- and post-1994. Because it has never been clear who finances those who represent us in Parliament‚ it has never been clear exactly whose interests parties are prioritizing. . . . Being told what to think from every angle‚ it is difficult for the public to remain clear on what is in fact‚ in their best interests‚" she said.

The bill‚ once it becomes legislation‚ will require political parties to disclose the amounts and sources of donations above R100‚000 per donor during any one financial year.

Political parties will be required to present this information in a report to the Independent Electoral Commission‚ which will publish the reports on a quarterly basis. Dudley said at the same time‚ disclosure will be required by donors‚ to ensure that political parties are accurately reporting.

"The ACDP‚ like many others‚ is all too aware of the potential‚ however‚ for donors to be less likely to donate and risk public censure if they cannot retain anonymity and we welcome the new Multiparty Democracy Fund‚ created to provide a solution to this problem. The fund will receive donations from anonymous donors‚ as well as donors who do not wish to donate funds to a particular political party and all parties in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures will get a percentage based in part‚ on the proportionality of seats held by political parties across these legislatures‚" said Dudley.

Since 1994‚ parties have received annual allocations of public funds on a “90/10 split”. The funding bill approved yesterday provides for the allocation to be - two-thirds (66.7%) - based on proportionality and one third (33.3%) equally‚ benefitting smaller parties.

"This legislation is a real victory for Multiparty Democracy and the ACDP supports wholeheartedly this initiative which we believe will strengthen and preserve the important diversity of views across parties in our Parliament‚" the ACDP MP said.

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