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By Brian Sokutu

Senior Print Journalist

Taxpayers pay nearly R14bn to political parties

Outa said it was unable to establish how much each party received, 'but the bigger parties will have received the most, as funding is distributed according to representation in parliament and legislatures'.

This is who really funds political parties: you, the taxpayer.

In what political analysts have described as “explosive” and “a matter of concern”, civil rights group Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) on Thursday exposed how taxpayers have paid R13.882 billion to political parties in the 13 years since 2009.

Outa claimed the amount was eight times more than the known funding – through the constitutionally authorised Represented Political Party Fund (RPPF) – helping parties to retain power.

The Outa probe into how public funds went into political party funding, has also revealed that:

  • The funding for 2021/22 alone reached R1.446 billion;
  • Another R2.890 billion was pencilled into the budgets to cover the next two years; and
  • Should the funding process go through, the parties will have collected R16.773 billion over the 15 years from 2009/10 to 2023/24 – the full period for the fourth, fifth and sixth parliaments.

Outa said it was unable to establish how much each party received, “but the bigger parties will have received the most, as funding is distributed according to representation in parliament and legislatures”.

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“All parties which have held seats in the national and provincial legislatures during those years have benefitted.

“All the funding was approved in the annual budgets, voted on by the MPs, National Council of Provinces delegates and MPLs, whose parties are the beneficiaries,” said the report.

It added: “There is very little accountability for the extra funds.

“The funding is not secret, but there is very little transparency around it.

“None of the parliament or legislature funding is declared in the new Electoral Commission funding reports.”

The funding was tracked through the National Treasury’s records of national and provincial budgets – including spreadsheets, parliamentary annual reports, provincial legislatures and the RPPF.

The unearthing of information was made possible by Outa’s application in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

Institute for Global Dialogue political analyst Sanusha Naidu said: “What I have found interesting is that the representative political party funding links to the work of the constituency office at national and provincial party level.

“That says to you that there is a revenue stream that is not being audited.

“This year, MPs had to do more constituency work because of the elections.

“They are not doing constituency work out of their own party coffers.

“What Outa is saying is that there is this fund, which makes it unclear how much taxpayers are putting in.

“It is not an illegal fund, but authorised, because of our electoral system, with each party receiving money based on proportional representation.

“Parties are increasing that budget – claiming that there is this idea of constituency work to justify the funding.

“What is not clear is how the constituency offices function, because there is no breakdown of what constituency support means,” Naidu said.

“This report is explosive because it exposes that MPs are not doing what they are supposed to be doing. In this year alone, they spent more time doing constituency work, due to the elections.

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“What Outa is arguing is that there should be a rethink of this fund and how they are treating this budget – 11 funding streams under the RPPF.

“Political parties are making a lot of money from taxpayers without showing any value for the money.”

Independent political analyst Ralph Mathekga said: “It should be a concern that so much public money went to political parties that hardly account to the people.

“It looks as if our democracy is too expensive and something has to be done about that.”

University of South Africa political science professor Dirk Kotze said Outa figures showed that political parties received substantial amounts of money from public sources – making their financial situation “not so dire”.

“What we need is much more disclosure by political parties – what they have received publicly and privately,” said Kotze.