R2K supports the ongoing struggle for transparency on political party funding. Voters have the right to know who funds who.
My Vote Counts (MVC) has announced that it will approach the High Court to ensure political parties are financially transparent. (See MVC statement here.) This case comes after more than a decade of inaction from Parliament and political parties on the need to tackle party funding secrecy.
R2K firmly believes there needs to be a law in place that requires political parties to provide regular and proactive reports to the public on who finances them. They must exercise the transparency that they preach.
We were disappointed in October 2015 when the Constitutional Court recognised the public’s right to know where political parties get their money – but stopped short of ordering Parliament to produce such a law. Instead the Court instructed My Vote Counts to go to the High Court and challenge existing access to information laws for failing to ensure this information is made public.
Without knowing the financial backers of all major political parties, voters are kept in the dark about potential conflicts of interest and have no way of knowing who may be influencing the policies and activities of these parties. The vast majority of funding for political parties comes from private sources, and currently not a single political party is willing to say who its funders are. In the current climate, corporations, wealthy individuals and even foreign governments can buy influence and favours from political parties across the aisles.
This lack of transparency must be challenged. Such secrecy not only fosters corruption and various forms of state capture, but also undermines democracy in other ways.
On 3 August, voters are once again being asked to vote for parties who collectively embrace a secrecy that is in complete contradiction with the very essence of democratic elections – accountability and transparency. They continue to do so even in the face of repeated calls for transparency, from the media, the public and civil society.
Let this be the last election where politicians and their private funders can hide such information from the public.
We say Ongazi Makazi! Voters have the right to know!
What harm can party funding secrecy do? Here are some recent scandals and reports that have come to light:
- In July 2016, it was reported that the ANC may have spent up to R1 billion in campaigns for the municipal elections, though ANC spokespeople have denied this figure.
- In March 2016, following years of controversy and emerging evidence of state capture linked to the Gupta family, ANC and government leaders publicly claimed that senior appointments had been influenced or approved by Gupta family members.
- Beaufort West Mayor Truman Prince wrote a letter under a municipal letterhead asking for influence in tendering decisions to profit the ANC’s electoral fund.
- In 2015, Hitachi Africa was fined in the US for its link to the ANC whilst securing deals from the South African government.
- Prior to the 2014 elections we saw reports that South African-born billionaire Nathan Kirsh was the donor behind the failed DA/Agang merger. Kirsh controversially has a large stake in a security company which has big contracts with the Israeli military.
- In 2014 there were also reports that the ANC and Community Party of China discussed the possibility of the Chinese funding the ANC’s political school to the tune of R800million.
- The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism reported on allegations that the DA-governed Cape Town City Council had overlooked its own bylaws to approve the building plans of a political donor, as well as rumours that private developers, possibly also DA donors, were behind DA Mayor Patricia de Lille’s decision to back a controversial R1-billion development on the Clifton coastline.
- Uruguayan businessman Gaston Savoi, who was accused of giving R1-million to the ANC in order to receive a tender from the KZN Department of the Health, continues to face charges.