Jackson Mthembu. Picture: ALON SKUY
Jackson Mthembu. Picture: ALON SKUY

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu wants public funding of political parties increased‚ saying the R150m shared proportionally among 12 parties represented in Parliament in this financial year is a "pittance". He presented this proposal on Wednesday at a closed meeting with chiefs whip from the opposition.

Mthembu also proposes that Parliament craft legislation to ensure transparency and public accountability in the private funding of parties.

His proposal marks a serious departure from the ANC’s previous stance on the matter‚ in which his predecessor, Stone Sizani, and Parliament successfully challenged an application in the Constitutional Court in 2015 that sought to force parties to disclose their private donors.

The ANC’s parliamentary boss says he will soon be tabling a motion in the National Assembly‚ calling for the establishment of a multi-party ad hoc committee to develop legislation and policies on increased public funding of political parties and regulations that allow public scrutiny of private donations.

Mthembu says his proposal stems from ANC national conference resolutions in Polokwane in 2007 and Mangaung in 2012 which, up to now, have not been acted on.

He wants his proposed ad hoc committee to conclude its work by December this year: "We are late‚ but better late than never‚" he says in response to the timing of his proposal.

The issue of private political funding has been on the agenda for years‚ with pressure groups arguing that secret donations to parties are a danger to democracy as they could allow undue influence on the affairs of political parties. The critics have also argued that anonymous party funding creates space for corruption to thrive.

Mthembu says the ad hoc committee would also be free to decide if anonymous funding be completely banned or just regulated‚ depending on the level of "adequate public funding" it was likely to agree on.

"I would not want to go into the finances of the ANC because I’m not the Treasurer-General‚ but as the person who is responsible for communication‚ just one line item in the budget of elections‚ was communication," he says. "We had to spend more than R200m just on one line item‚ not to mention others … such as issues of staffing‚ taking care of buildings‚ election years‚ travels by party officials‚ [and] accommodation in hotels."

He says once sufficient public funding of parties is secured‚ parties will be obliged to declare their funds from private donors: "The issue is not only increasing public funding. The issue is throwing in transparency on where we get any additional funding‚ ensuring that when’s there’s such adequate funding then the responsibility on parties is to declare any other additional funds they might get from private [individuals or companies]‚ whether those private entities are outside or inside the country‚ they must be declared."

Mthembu says he is confident other parties will support his proposal.

TMG Digital

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