Carol Paton Editor at Large
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE
President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: GCIS/ELMOND JIYANE

The Electoral Commission of SA (IEC) said this week that it had briefed President Cyril Ramaphosa on its readiness to implement the Party Political Funding Act six months ago and is awaiting his decision for when the act will be implemented.

Parliament passed the act in 2018 and Ramaphosa assented to it January 2019. Before it could be put into operation, the IEC, which will administer the act, was required to establish structures and business systems, after which an implementation date could be set.

The act provides for the establishment and management of two funds to finance activities of political parties, prohibits certain donations and determines funding rules, including mandatory disclosure of all donations exceeding R100,000. It is an essential component of preventing corruption by requiring disclosure and transparency by donors and political parties.

In reply to questions this week, the IEC said it had finalised regulations required for implementation, had developed an online party-funding platform to be used by donors and political parties for declarations and was conducting training among political parties on how to use the system.

“The commission has met with the president on the 17 March 2020 in order to apprise him [of] its state of readiness to implement the legislation in question. The date of the implementation of the act, however, remains the prerogative of the president and it remains indeterminate,” said head of political party funding George Mahlangu.

Ramaphosa’s spokesperson, Tyrone Seale, said on Monday that Ramaphosa would implement the act once various tasks were completed by the department of home affairs, which is responsible for the IEC.

“We can only implement once the IEC is ready to implement. There are outstanding issues to do with regulations and budget,” said Seale.

Siya Qoza, spokesperson for home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that the minister had written to parliament to reconsider one of the regulations it tabled formerly. He did not elaborate, but it is believed that there is a technical error in the regulations which the minister tabled on behalf of the president.

Qoza said that immediate budgetary issues had been taken care of and the Treasury had allocated R72m over two financial years to help the IEC to establish the party funding unit within its structure and pay for other preparatory costs.

The two biggest political parties, the ANC and the DA, resisted the introduction of legislation to regulate party funding. The drafters of the constitution made provision for specific legislation on party funding.

But other than campaigns by civil society organisations for legislation to be made there was little progress until 2018 when Valli Moosa, an ANC drafter of the SA constitution, successfully lobbied key ANC MPs to initiate a bill from parliament, bypassing the cabinet. Led by then chief whip Jackson Mthembu, the bill was passed amid the turmoil of the Jacob Zuma presidency, receiving little attention.

Moosa, writing in the Sunday Times last week, said he was concerned that there was still nothing stopping SA political parties from accepting money from anyone, including foreign governments, corporations, lobbyists and dodgy donors.

Unfortunately, the act, even though it is on the statute books, is of little value because it has not been brought into operation. A wonderful law, sorely needed to deal with the toxic relationship between money and politics, is still on the shelf. This will remain one of the lasting legacies of the current president,” said Moosa.

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