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New Act forces political parties to be more transparent—IFP and My Vote Counts comments

New Act forces political parties to be more transparent—IFP and My Vote Counts comments
"The Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises."

Estimated reading time: 4 minutes

Corruption in the political sector is a contentious topic in South Africa, with government officials facing allegations on an almost weekly basis. However, is the world of politics now set to change or better yet, will South Africa finally see a break in the country’s ongoing political storm?

In what can be described as a historical development for transparency and accountability in South Africa, President Cyril Ramaphosa has determined the Political Party Funding Act will come into operation on 1 April 2021.

President Ramaphosa signed a Proclamation on the Commencement of the Political Party Funding Act, 2018 (Act no. 6 of 2018), which regulates public and private political parties’ funding. The Act establishes funds to provide political parties represented in Parliament and legislatures with funding to undertake their work. It also requires that parties and donors disclose donations to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

In addition, the Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises.

However, according to the Act, parties may 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.

The implementation of the Political Party Funding Act will apparently have far-reaching consequences for good governance and ethical-political activity. In a statement issued by the Presidency, it is explained the Act will strengthen citizens’ confidence in the democratic political process and enable them to assert their right to information. 

The statement further reads, “At the same time, 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 seeks to ensure that all represented political parties receive sufficient funds for their work in a fair and equitable manner.”

The Political Party Funding Act will come into effect on 1 April 2021 and is allegedly part of the current administration’s commitment to improving transparency and government accountability.

The Presidency claims, “It reinforces initiatives like the online publication of all COVID-related contracts of all government departments and public entities, with plans underway to expand this approach to all areas of government procurement. This commitment to transparency is also evident, for example, in the process which led to the appointment of the new National Director of Public Prosecutions, and in the publication of the Minister’s performance agreements.”

President Ramaphosa commends the IEC, the Department of Home Affairs, Members of Parliament, leaders of political parties and other stakeholders for the extensive preparatory work required to bring this legislation into operation. He calls on all parties to work together and with the IEC to ensure this law’s effective implementation.

Local political figure, Dr Koos Vorster of the IFP shares his views on the Act, explaining, “Personally, I think it is a good thing, as we will now be able to see where the money now comes from.”

He elaborates on this, pointing out that extensive sums of money were pumped into political parties from outside countries. “This gives political parties a lot of influence, especially the ruling party,” he adds.

However, Dr Vorster does have his concerns about the Act. “If a company does provide funding to a political party, the ruling party might discriminate against the company in terms of tenders, because the funding did not go to them.”

My Votes Count, a non-profit civil society organisation dedicated to improving the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the country, enthuses the Political Party Funding Act is truly a ground-breaking law.

As we get closer to its implementation, the organisation emphasises that we need to start thinking about how the information it facilitates access to and the regulatory framework it creates can best be used to develop transparency, accountability, and good governance.

In a statement, the organisation says, “We are also hopeful that its April implementation date will mean that when we go to the polls to vote in the local government elections scheduled for later this year, we will for the first time ever have this essential information – disclosures of the private funding of political parties – available to us.”

With the implementation of the new Act, what are your thoughts? Do you feel it will offer much-needed transparency and therefore, progression? 

Share your views with us in the comment section below.

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