Lobby group considers top court challenge in fight for political donations transparency
LOBBY group My Vote Counts may return to court seeking to test the constitutionality of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) relating to donations for political parties.
The group had given 13 political parties until Friday to respond to PAIA requests for information. My Vote Counts co-ordinator Janine Ogle said on Friday only four parties had responded. The group would weigh up its options, but may turn to the courts, she said.
In 2015 My Vote Counts unsuccessfully sought to compel Parliament to pass legislation that obliges parties to disclose their sources of funding. In a majority ruling in September 2015 the Constitutional Court held that though the group maintained PAIA had shortcomings, it should have sought to attack its constitutional validity in the High Court.
My Vote Count had argued Parliament failed in its constitutional obligation to citizens by failing to pass specific legislation ensuring that voters had right of access to information on private funding, information critical to the public for making their electoral choices
Parliament had argued in the Constitutional Court case that new legislation was not necessary to compel parties to reveal their funders as the information could be requested through PAIA — which it said exhaustively covered the constitutional right of access to information.
Ogle said on Friday the lobby group would publish the results of its PAIA requests on Monday.
In 2003, Idasa lost its bid to have political parties disclose donors. At the time Idasa had first approached SA’s five largest political parties seeking a list of their donors, however only the African Christian Democratic Party acceded, with the court ultimately finding that political parties were private bodies and not subject to the same strictures as state bodies under legislation.
Executive secretary at the Council for the Advancement of the South African Constitution Lawson Naidoo said on Friday both principles enshrined in the constitution and SA’s international treaty obligations pointed to some resolution of the issue.
"Political parties play a very public function, so to try and hide behind that privacy is an anathema. There must be a way to get through to the issue of forcing them to disclose information," he said.