CR17 funding saga has lobby groups pushing for ‘show us the money’ rule
If a transparency provision is included in the Promotion of Access to Information Amendment Bill, funding of the ANC presidential race could be made public
SA’s human rights body has suggested the bill that deals with the recording and disclosure of funding of political parties and independent candidates should be extended to include information relating to the funding of internal candidates for political party campaigns.
This comes on the heels of the public protector’s findings that President Cyril Ramaphosa “deliberately” misled parliament over a R500,000 donation from Gavin Watson, the late CEO of the controversial Bosasa group, along with the leaked details of donors to his CR17 campaign for the ANC presidency.
Testimony at the state capture inquiry alleged that Bosasa had bribed politically connected individuals and the governing party.
The SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) and several other organisations have made submissions to parliament’s justice and correctional services committee, which held public hearings on the bill on Tuesday.
The bill deals with the recording, preservation and access to information of the private funding of political parties and independent candidates where the donation exceeds R100,000 per financial year. The bill also covers loans, payment of expenses, provision of assets or services, and sponsorships to political parties.
In its submission, the SAHRC says recent political events have prompted Ramaphosa to urge parliament to consider whether it is necessary and desirable for internal party contests to be regulated.
The SAHRC said the same influence that can be applied by donors when funding political parties can be exerted on internal party candidates, and the same requirement for transparency should apply.
“Contributions might be made to internal candidates to advance a certain policy agenda in the benefactor’s interest,” the commission said.
The amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism argued that the R100,000 threshold for disclosure of a donation was too high and in any event should be set in regulations rather than in the act itself so it could be easily amended. It also argued that donations from substantially related sources (such as a company and its subsidiary or a spouse) be counted as a single donation for the purposes of disclosure.
amaBhungane also strongly urged that funding from party investment vehicles — for example, dividends, returns or transfers — be included as sources of funding to be disclosed above the threshold.
amaBhungane wants parliament to place a general obligation on political parties and independent candidates to create and hold any and all records irrespective of their value.
“The effect of this will be to avoid a gap being created should the disclosure threshold change while ensuring that a requester [for information] is still able to effectively exercise their rights and make a reasonable request for records even if under the threshold.”
My Vote Counts also argued that the accounting officer should be required to record and maintain records of all donations irrespective of their value because the threshold of R100,000 is cumulative.
“If a person or entity donates R10,000 on 10 occasions within a financial year, this will require disclosure,” it said.
Right To Know argued for the inclusion of municipal representation in the bill.
“SA has many political parties who are represented in councils across the country without representation in national or provincial legislatures,” the organisation said in its submission.