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Parliament passes bill on party funding: Here’s what you need to know

The National Assembly has passed the Promotion of Access to Public Information Amendment Bill – better known as the PAIA Amendment Bill – to further regulate public access to the way political parties are funded.

The PAIA Amendment Bill obligates all political parties and anyone standing as an independent candidate in an election to keep all records of donations in excess of R100 000 made by a specific individual or entity to the party or candidate in a single year.

Political party funding bill, explained

Much as this is a step forward in South African political transparency, the bill has been criticised by civil society groupings who wanted to see the records kept for seven years so as to bring it in line with the Companies Act.

Moreover, several civil society groupings and community activists were not happy at all with the threshold of R100 000 per year. They advocated for all donations to be made public, and have warned that the act as it stands leaves several loopholes.

Two of these are that a company could have each of its subsidiaries donate R99 999 and remain under the radar of detection, or that a family could donate R99 999 from each member and likewise remain publically undetected.

The reason why these civil society groupings feel so strongly about these matters are that they believe state capture has shown money – and its unchecked flow – is the root of much evil in South African politics. On the other hand, political parties – especially those in opposition – believe publication of the names of donors to political parties could expose them to discrimination from those in power. They may for instance not get tenders if they are known supporters of an opposition party.

In the parliamentary debate, ANC MPs Gratitude Magwanishe and Adv. Hishaam Mahomed both accentuated the view that the bill gave expression to court findings ordering greater transparency in political party funding.

Input from political heavyweights

DA MP Adv, Glynnis Breytenbach agreed that the amendment bill was necessary because the court had ordered it. She said the impact on the ability of opposition parties to raise much needed funding remains to be seen.

On behalf of the EFF, its MP Dr Mbuyiseni Ndlozi said much money is needed to contest elections successfully. He pointed out that commodification of elections was a worldwide phenomenon, and he claimed that parties dedicated to the upliftment of poor black voters, especially in rural areas, did not get funding from white businesses.

He also maintained that black people who donated to opposition parties were targeted by the ANC, and therefore asked South Africans to rather donate to the IEC’s Democracy Fund, which emburses money equitably to those political parties which are represented in parliament.

Although supporting the bill, IFP MP Prof. Christian Msimang said it was a pity it did not regulate funding for internal party political contests.

The bill was supported by all political parties and passed unanimously.

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