The National Assembly adopted the Promotion of Access to Information Amendment Bill (PAIA) on Wednesday afternoon and once signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa, political parties will have to disclose private funders who donate more than R100,000 to them.
Last June, the Constitutional Court confirmed a Western Cape High Court ruling that the PAIA was unconstitutional because it did not provide for the disclosure of information about the private funding that political parties receive.
The organisation My Vote Counts took the application to court.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng ordered parliament to amend the PAIA and “take any other measures it deems appropriate” to provide for this within 18 months.
This deadline expires on December 20.
The bill requires political parties to appoint an accounting officer who will have to keep records of the following:
- The identity of and amount of money paid by all persons or entities who donate more than R100,000 per financial year;
- All money lent to the political party;
- Any money paid on behalf of the political party for any expenses incurred by the party;
- The provision of assets, services or facilities for the use or benefit of a political party whether on commercial terms or not;
- Any sponsorships provided to the political party, excluding services rendered by volunteers.
Furthermore, the accounting officer will have to make records available every quarter on the party’s social media platforms, or at least two months before an election.
The records must also be kept for at least five years.
DA MP Glynnis Breytenbach said: “Only time will tell what impact this bill will have on the political parties to source private funding, specifically opposition parties in a young democracy like ours.”
She expressed concern about capacity constraints at the information regulator.
EFF MP Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said to “constitute a formidable political campaign takes a lot of money”, which leads to the “commodification of processes of a democratic election”.
He added smaller parties and new entrants were often marginalised.
“We’ll be the first ones, as the EFF, to say who our private funders are,” Ndlozi promised.
He said people who fund small political parties were punished by the state and urged businesses to donate to all parties in the interests of democracy.
IFP MP Christian Msimang said the bill does not provide for the disclosure of donations to individual party members contesting internal elections, which is a missed opportunity.
ACDP MP Steve Swart commended the perseverance of My Vote Counts.
“It is crucial to know who funds political parties, and what influence they bring to bear on parties, particularly those in the government, where lucrative state contracts are at stake.”
ANC MP Hishaam Mohamed said the bill was “a reflection of the ANC’s commitment to democracy, transparency and accountability”.
“The ANC deems this bill as necessary for many reasons as it encapsulates the right to vote, it encapsulates also the right to make an informed decision when voting and, as a result, any measure that supports and reinforces the fundamental rights of our people are welcomed by the ANC,” added Mohamed.
“The bill will deepen democracy we believe and usher in a new culture of transparent funding for political parties.”
No party objected to the adoption of the bill.
The bill will be sent to the National Council of Provinces for concurrence.