The Right2Know Campaign is extremely disappointed at today’s Constitutional Court judgement, which recognises the public’s right to know where political parties get their money – but falls short of delivering the justice needed to exercise that right. My Vote Counts (MVC) argued the case in February 2015, calling on Parliament to pass a law requiring political parties to tell us who gives them their money.
The majority judgment of the Court found that even though the public does have that right to know, MVC should rather have challenged the failure of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to allow for the ongoing release of party funding information.
See MyVoteCount’s statement and the judgement here.
We agree with Judge Cameron for the minority judgement who wrote:
“So the right to vote does not exist in a vacuum. Nor does it consist merely of the entitlement to make a cross upon a ballot paper. It is neither meagre nor formalistic. It is a rich right – one to vote knowingly for a party and its principles and programmes. It is a right to vote for a political party, knowing how it will contribute to our constitutional democracy and the attainment of our constitutional goals.
Does this include knowing the private sources of political parties’ funding? It surely does.”
There should be a separate law that requires that political parties provide regular financial reports on who funds them to the public – citizens should not have to request those records every time using PAIA. The information should be readily available.
The need for financial transparency is crucial in the struggle against secret deals between politicians and their private-sector paymasters. In the past 20 years of democracy, all major political parties have refused to disclose where they get their money, creating a climate of secrecy that is ripe for corruption, allowing wealthy individuals to buy favours and influence from parties on both sides of the aisle.
Political parties can very likely expect PAIA requests in the coming days to demand access to their financial records. They will have to walk the talk when it comes to transparency.
Today R2K activists participated in mass protests against corruption in Pretoria, Cape Town and Durban, and R2K is set to support the workers’ strike against corruption in October. These are important symbols of the power of people working together. The Constitutional Court has delivered a disappointing setback for transparency, but there is a long road ahead still. It is up to ordinary people across South Africa to demand an end to these secret deals, and fight for their right to know!