Former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. Picture: REUTERS
Former Public Protector, Thuli Madonsela. Picture: REUTERS

Former public protector Thuli Madonsela has urged President Cyril Ramaphosa to sign the Political Party Funding Bill into law as a “major priority”  so voters can know where parties get their money before the crucial 2019 general election.

“Especially in the run up to the elections, we need to know who is giving money to who. For me it’s all about capture, it’s about who is giving money to who and… if [the] government is suddenly pandering to the interests of those that have paid large sums of money then as citizens, we need to start knowing about it,” Madonsela told Business Day on Wednesday.

Madonsela says the bill, sitting on Ramaphosa's desk since it was passed by parliament in March, is “extremely important” in ensuring the rights of voters and enabling greater accountability and integrity among political parties.

According to voter-rights organisation My Vote Counts, Ramaphosa has to sign off on the bill before the end of November for it to come into effect before the 2019 general election.

Madonsela said the Oilgate scandal, when PetroSA paid Imvume Management an R18m advance in early 2004 to buy feedstock condensate for the parastatal and Imvume then donated R11m of the money to the ANC , demonstrated how political party funding could be linked to tender deals.

This same pathology had allegedly played itself out in other financial scandals involving the Passenger Rail Agency of SA and VBS Bank.

“The link between tenders and party funding is of importance,” Madonsela said. “There has been anecdotal evidence that suggested that, starting from Imvume’s funding in Oilgate, companies would get money from [the] government, inflate the tender so that the state is charged exorbitant amounts and then pay back the party and some of the people involved.

“With Oilgate we know for a fact that it was done, and then with VBS there are allegations that some parties may have received funding but that is an allegation that still needs to be tested. In Prasa, there are also allegations that some of the money may have gone to political parties.”

The presidency has denied that Ramaphosa is stalling the signing of the bill into law. Ramaphosa has said he wants the bill to be properly legally and constitutionally scrutinised before it is enacted.

His spokesperson Khusela Diko did not response to requests for comment on progress in this process.

She previously said that Ramaphosa regarded the bill's implementation  as “urgent” and said the president’s legal  counsel was “working to ensure that within the  possible time frames” the bill was completed.

In the interim, My Vote Counts and the Right2Know campaign have written to all 13 political parties in parliament asking them to disclose sources of their donor funding.

“Only three parties responded, with all stating that because of the absence of legislation, they cannot provide us with their private funding information. The three  parties that responded were DA, IFP and COPE,” Sheilan Clarke, from My Vote Counts, told Business Day on Wednesday.

Clarke said these responses were “not entirely fair”, given that the Constitutional Court had ruled in June “that citizens can request this crucial information from parties”.

In that judgment, SA’s highest court declared that information on private funding of political parties and independent candidates had to be recorded, preserved and made reasonably accessible to the public.

Murray Hunter of Right2Know urged Ramaphosa to end the “secret” funding of political parties.

“Citizens have, rightly, demanded an end to secret money in our democracy. The voters’ right to know has been confirmed by the courts and now by parliament.

“The president needs to hear the call to sign that bill. Every day he delays is another day of secret money in our politics. National elections are six months away.”