Thapelo Lekabe
Digital Journalist
4 minute read
22 Jan 2021
11:52 am

Party Funding Act ‘a historic development for transparency and accountability’

Thapelo Lekabe

President Cyril Ramaphosa has finally signed the 2018 Act into law, and it will become fully operational on 1 April 2021.

President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Jairus Mmutle/GCIS.

Lobby group My Vote Counts has welcomed the signing of the proclamation on the commencement date of the Political Party Funding Act, which will regulate the public and private funding of political parties.

The 2018 Act was signed into law in January 2019 and has been awaiting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s decision on its implementation date.

My Vote Counts said the legislation, which will come into operation on 1 April 2021, was a step in the right direction in trying to fight corruption in the country.

The Presidency on Friday said the signing of the Act into operation was “a historic development for transparency and accountability in South Africa”.

The legislation provides the mechanism on funds to be provided to political parties represented in Parliament and legislatures to undertake their work. It requires that donations should be disclosed by parties and donors to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

ALSO READ: Political Party Funding Act: ‘We are seeking to cure what is being exposed before Zondo’

The Act seeks to ensure that all represented political parties receive sufficient funds for their work through the establishment of the Represented Political Party Fund, which provides public funding to parties, and the Multi-Party Democracy Fund, which funds parties from private sources

“The Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises. Parties may however receive funding from foreign entities for training, skills development or policy development. No member of a political party may receive a donation other than for political party purposes,” acting Presidency spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said in a statement.

Spokesperson for My Vote Counts, Sheilan Clarke, said they were relieved that there was now a commencement date for the Act.

“That’s such a relief for us as My Vote Counts. We have been advocating for political parties funding transparency. He signed the law halfway without the commencement date two years ago. This is a sigh of relief. We are really now heading towards the right direction in trying to clean up the corruption that has led to this heavy corrosion in both the political and electoral system,” Clarke told The Citizen.

“This law is the first of its kind and the politics in South Africa, unfortunately, go hand-in-hand with bribery and corruption. And that’s only because we don’t see where money comes and goes to. There is that shield that we are not allowed to see even though it is your right to have access to this information.”

Clarke said the Constitution gave voters the right to not only vote, but also to make an informed vote.

“An informed vote means having all the necessary information to our disposal to make the right decision on whom to vote for. And that obviously includes who funds our political parties,” she said.

ALSO READ: ‘Big win’ for civil society as Political Party Funding Act nears implementation

“People need to understand that parties are like businesses and businesses need money to run. They have expenses and salaries to pay. So, they need to get money but we need to know where it comes from in order to access the potential corrupt relationship, which we have been seeing thanks to the State Capture Inquiry.”

However, Clarke said the Act had shortcomings when it came to transparency regarding internal leadership challenges within political parties.

“With any piece of legislation there will always be loopholes and with this Act there are a few shortcomings that we have spoken about over the years, which will have to be looked at later. But for now, the most important thing is to actually have it implemented and see how it works,” she said.

IEC notes signing of proclamation

At the same time, the IEC noted the signing of the proclamation on the Act’s commencement.

In a statement, the electoral body said it welcomed the coming into effect of the legislation from 1 April, which coincides with the start of a new financial year for the public sector and political parties.

“The implementation of the Act is one of the most important and far-reaching enhancements to our electoral democracy in the past 25 years. It will contribute significantly to increased transparency, good governance and access to information, which will ultimately enhance the credibility of the electoral process,” said the commission’s spokesperson Tumi Sethoba.

Sethoba said the IEC would next week publish the final regulations for the Act as part of the final phase of preparing for implementation.

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