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By Sydney Majoko

Writer


Party Funding Act dilemma

It has somewhat opened up the murky world that was just smoke and mirrors, with parties hiding behind their need to protect the privacy of the funders.


The funding that political parties receive from individuals and corporates has always been a contentious issue. On the one hand, it shows which people a party might be beholden to, while on the other, it shows which people have a direct interest in the success of the country’s democratic project. Until a change was made to compel parties to disclose any financial donations of more than R100 000, parties and donors used to guard this information jealously. To the detriment of the country. On the occasion of the launch of its manifesto, the political newbies Rise Mzansi kept tactfully dodging…

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The funding that political parties receive from individuals and corporates has always been a contentious issue.

On the one hand, it shows which people a party might be beholden to, while on the other, it shows which people have a direct interest in the success of the country’s democratic project.

Until a change was made to compel parties to disclose any financial donations of more than R100 000, parties and donors used to guard this information jealously. To the detriment of the country.

On the occasion of the launch of its manifesto, the political newbies Rise Mzansi kept tactfully dodging the question of who was funding the party when asked by the media.

“We will reveal our donors, just not yet.” And they did, eventually. But it is important to note that their delay in declaring who their funders are is significant.

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In some weird way, political parties have always judged each other on an ideological level and would hate to be seen to be receiving funding from a certain kind of individual.

Which is why the Democratic Alliance once explaining a donation from the Gupta family.

It turns out that the Oppenheimer family, which has made no secret of the fact that it funds the Democratic Alliance and ActionSA, also funds Rise Mzansi.

Why they felt this had to be kept hidden for some time is baffling. It takes a lot of money to set up the kind of think-tank that Songezo Zibi and company did in setting up the Rivonia Circle.

It takes even more money to engage in the kind of research that they needed to do to have a proper foundation for the launch of Rise Mzansi.

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It needs money and not many South Africans are willing to fund the new kid on the block because they know it’s hard for new parties to make a serious impact on South Africa’s political landscape.

But the Oppenheimer family thinks Zibi and company are worth their money. And there should be no shame in that.

The delay in naming their funders temporarily placed Rise Mzansi in the same muddy and murky circles of those who prefer to receive funding behind closed doors.

Zibi and his party should have shown from the beginning that it is not only the letter of the law that they are willing to follow, but the spirit behind that law.

The law seeks to weed out the behind-closeddoors deals that turned hungry struggle activists into corrupt individuals, who became willing to put aside their morals as they looted money meant for the poorest of the poor.

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It has been shown in the past that there is a toxic mix that was created between those in charge of the public purse and those who decide where government’s most lucrative tenders go.

Upon receiving the tenders, the “tenderpreneurs” would then channel some money back to the political party that awarded them the tender.

Even more toxic was that the “tenderpreneurs” would then repay their political principals by setting up a whole lifestyle package, from upmarket houses, cars, paying school fees, funding expensive nights out for their principals. And the politicians’ hands would stay clean while the tenderpreneur would take the heat in the media circles.

It is that kind of funding that political parties would not declare. Hence the introduction of the Political Party Funding Act.

It has somewhat opened up the murky world that was just smoke and mirrors, with parties hiding behind their need to protect the privacy of those funding them.

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But it was in that privacy that corruption blossomed and thrived.

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