Molefe Seeletsa

By Molefe Seeletsa

Digital Journalist

‘R100K five years ago not same amount today: Motsoaledi proposes changes to party funding act

The Home Affairs Minister has suggested that the donation threshold be changed.

Following the enactment of the Electoral Amendment Bill, the focus has turned to other existing laws which will be affected.

President Cyril Ramaphosa last month signed the bill into law, paving the way for independent candidates to contest provincial and national elections.

The move, however, will require consequential amendments to the Electoral Commission Act, Electronic Communications Act, Political Party Funding Act and the Financial Management of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures Act.

‘Sufficient checks and balances’

On Tuesday, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi appeared in Parliament to discuss the possible changes to the Political Party Funding Act in particular.

Motsoaledi told members of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs that the Act in its current form can be viewed as unconstitutional since the legislation did not include independent candidates

“When that [the Political Party Funding Act] was [introduced] in 2018, the word independent in Parliament and provincial legislatures was not known. It never existed.

“Now, it exists and if the Political Party Funding Act outlines how the political parties are funded, in order to be able to run elections and their political activities, it stands to reason that equally, the independents too, must be funded, because it will the illegal and unconstitutional to leave them out. But you cannot fund them without an act of Parliament,” he said.

ALSO READ: New Electoral Act ‘taking away power from people’

In his presentation to the committee, the minister said the amendments should have key principles.

“South African parties have all been affected by a decrease in donations in the last few years. Fixing the legislative environment for independent members and political party funding must help to make funding easy, fair, transparent and democratic.

“We should avoid prescribing amounts in legislation and do so in regulations as we want to avoid unnecessary changes to the Act,” he said.

Watch the meeting below:

Motsoaledi proposed that the R100,000 threshold in the act should be changed.

“While parties and independents should continue to fully account for donations over the limit, the IEC [Independent Electoral Commission] should remove any unnecessarily onerous obligations that may deter donors.

“We are saying this not encourage corruption, but we believe there are other sufficient checks and balances to investigate suspicious donations declared by parties,” the minister said.

RELATED: ANC could lose more donors if party funding act is amended

“For the R100 000 limit to make declarations, there is room to consider reasonable and justifiable increases of the amount over time, in a constitutional democracy.

“We are aware that it is already been five years that we have been declaring this R100 000. [However] what was R100 000 five years ago is no longer R100 000 today, I’m sure we all know that.”

Some members of the committee requested more time to consider the presentations and obtain input from their parties on the proposals.

Positions on Key Issues in Ppfa Amendments by Molefe Seeletsa on Scribd

‘Money can distort democracy’

The African National Congress (ANC) has already publicly stated it wants the Political Party Funding Act to be amended so the current threshold can be increased to R250,000 or R500,000 per year.

The governing party has previously claimed that the Act was the cause of its financial woes in recent times.

The law, which came into effect on 1 April 2021, requires that donations of R100,000 and upwards be disclosed by parties and donors to the IEC.

Political parties that violate certain sections of the Act could receive hefty fines, ranging from R40,000 to R1 million.

READ MORE: Stop ANC receiving ‘dirty money’ by changing party funding act, says Zondo

Civil society organisation, however, are opposed to the ANC’s suggestions.

My Vote Counts, the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) and other organisations recently made submissions to the National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council (NACAC) regarding the Act.

“The current legislation has gaps that should be amended to prevent and combat corruption in South Africa,” the organisations said in a statement on Tuesday.

The group instead the Act to be amended to criminalise donations made to political parties with the expectation of being granted procurement tenders or contracts.

“We have already seen how money can distort democracy and eat away at the common good, as demonstrated by the Zondo Commission,” My Vote Counts executive director, Minhaj Jeenah said.

“While political parties should be well financed in order to continue to be of benefit to the people, they cannot be allowed to be captured by private or foreign interests.”