Ramaphosa tells MPs of lobby against law to regulate political party funding

Thabo Mokone Parliamentary editor
President Cyril Ramaphosa replies to oral questions in parliament on Thursday.
President Cyril Ramaphosa replies to oral questions in parliament on Thursday.
Image: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa has confirmed to parliament that he's being lobbied to consider changes to the party-funding law he enacted last year, saying this was the reason its implementation date has been delayed.

Responding to oral questions during a virtual sitting of the National Assembly on Thursday, Ramaphosa said several stakeholders within and outside government had approached him with proposals on how the Political Party Funding Act should be further amended before it could come into effect.

This was despite the fact that the act, which was lauded as a critical tool in curbing corruption and dodgy donations to political parties, was passed by parliament and signed into law by Ramaphosa last year.

But proponents of the act, which stemmed from a Constitutional Court ruling after a legal challenge on party funding rules by lobby group My Vote Counts, have slammed Ramaphosa for not promptly announcing the implementation date of the legislation.

Ramaphosa was addressing the matter within the context of a question posed by DA leader John Steenhuisen, who wanted to know if the government was acting decisively against state capture and other forms of corruption.

The president was also pressed on the delayed implementation of the PPFA by Pieter Groenewald of the Freedom Front Plus, who mentioned how the governing ANC had been implicated as a recipient of dodgy donations at the Zondo commission of inquiry into state capture.

Ramaphosa said he had been advised to “hold back” in relation to the PPFA commencement date.

“The regulations have to be put in place. Now I've been informed that [because] there are quite a few amendments that are being discussed, hold off, before the regulations are fully signed,” he told MPs.

ANC treasurer general Paul Mashatile told the Sunday Times in October that his party would lobby the president to send the PPFA back to parliament.

Mashatile said they were not happy that the act required parties to declare all donations of more than a R100,000, including those in-kind.

The IEC has also raised a similar concern.

Mashatile said they also wanted the changes to the R15m cap on donations that parties are allowed to receive from private donors each year, as well as the R5m cap on foreign donations for training and research each year.

He said these were a threat to the survival of political parties.

Parties such as the DA also do no support the PPFA, but have said they would unwillingly comply with its provision once implemented.

Ramaphosa did not mention the ANC's and IEC's concern directly, only telling MPs he's received concerns from a “number of quarters”.

“Now this has come from a number of quarters and I've been advised to 'hold back' because there are quite a few amendments that are being thought of and worked on  including from (the department of) home affairs itself.

“So much as I've signed, I stand ready to sign once again, once all those process have been completed. It's not an attempt to stop this process [of implementing the PPFA]. It's an attempt to try do it as correctly as possible,” he said.

EFF leader Julius Malema asked Ramaphosa to demonstrate his commitment to transparency by unsealing bank statements related to his CR17 campaign funding to show “he has nothing to hide”.

But Ramphosa said he had no authority to do so as the Financial Intelligence Centre laws did not allow for this. And, in any event, he said, the matter was subject of court battle with the public protector.

Turning to recent events of violent racially charged confrontations in Senekal in the Free State and Brackenfell in the Western Cape, Ramaphosa said these were inconsistent with South Africans' commitment to nonracialism and the spirit of national reconciliation.

He condemned those advocating war as a solution to the problem of racial tensions.