My Vote Counts says ‘Secrecy’ Act not in line with the Constitution
Citizens should know who funds the political parties they vote for to protect against post-election corruption linked to party funding, lobby group My Vote Counts argued in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday.
The organisation asked the court to confirm a 2017 finding by the High Court in Cape Town that the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) was inconsistent with the Constitution as it did not require political parties to disclose their private donors.
My Vote Counts’s advocate Max du Plessis said citizens donated funds to political parties in the hope that the parties would advance an agenda. Du Plessis said post-election favouritism to companies by a government could only be detected if there was transparency. “We would want to know if a foreign government or a particular family has donated to a political party in order to get preferential treatment.
“We would want to know if a potentially corrupt relationship was developing,” he said.
Du Plessis also said there were problems with Paia as it only referred to the release of recorded information‚ thus excluding unrecorded conversations and agreements.
Opposing the application, the minister of justice and constitutional development said that if the court declared sections of Paia unconstitutional, this would “stall” the parliamentary process on the Political Party Funding Bill.
Responding to a question by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng on what effect the confirmation of the High Court in Cape Town judgment would have, Thabani Masuku, counsel for the minister, said: “The impact of the confirmation is to stall the process that is in Parliament and get parliamentarians to run around to abide by the [court] order.”
The minister was the respondent and the only party that opposed the application.
Masuku said the rights in question should be balanced and that the rights of the donors should be taken into consideration. Labour federation Cosatu, which is an alliance partner of the ANC, was not part of the group of political parties under scrutiny, he said.