Donor funding ‘a danger to democracy’

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IOL pic feb3 helen zille mamphela ramphele hug at presser

Reuters

AgangSA leader Mamphela Ramphele hugs Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. Its back to the drawing board for the DA after Ramphele pulled out of the alliance. File picture: Mike Hutchings

Johannesburg -

It is detrimental to the democracy of any country for private companies to fund political parties without disclosing their identities, as such clandestine donors could end up dictating to their beneficiaries.

So says political analyst Ralph Mathekga, following DA leader Helen Zille’s revelation that many donors had demanded that her party and Mamphela Ramphele’s AgangSA merge so they could oppose the ruling ANC.

“We have many, many donors, many individuals and many voters who wanted this. Many wanted to know why we don’t get together. They (donors) were asking why we were different parties,” Zille said on Tuesday.

“It was not only one donor that put pressure on Mamphela. It was every donor. They want a united, strong opposition,” Zille tweeted on Tuesday.

Claims that a mysterious donor had pressured Zille and Ramphele are likely to raise eyebrows and undermine their credibility. Mathekga said it was damaging to democratic values and to political parties themselves to allow private businesses to donate funds without disclosing their identities and the amounts they donated.

“The issue is that whoever they are, such donors do have vested interests, in one way or another. They have an agenda to drive the campaign of the party they fund in terms of policy matters,” Mathekga said.

While the issue of donors secretly funding political parties was a worldwide phenomenon, it was potentially damaging to relatively new democracies.

“They (donors) have incredible influence in shaping public discourse. They are not accountable to anyone. They just put forward their own agenda, and parties often have no choice but to take the bait.”

More worrying, Mathekga said, was the resistance to the regulation of funding.

“If there is anything that unites the ANC and the DA, it is their common resistance to bring about the regulating of private funding.”

Zille refused, when quizzed by Talk 702 host John Robbie on Tuesday, to reveal the identity of the donor. “I don’t think it’s my job to tell anyone,” she said.

A well-placed source from Agang confirmed that donors had demanded that they merge with the DA in exchange for funding. “Discussions have been on-going for a long time. It was difficult for Agang to raise money, so they simply obliged,” the source said.

Agang denied Zille’s assertions. “No, there isn’t such a donor. There was no transaction. There was no international donor brokering this alleged transaction,” said Agang’s chief operating officer Andrew Gasnolar.

On Tuesday, the ANC said reports that an international donor was behind the failed merger undermined the constitutionally enshrined right of South Africans to make free political choices.

- The Star

Additional reporting by Sapa

lebogang.seale@inl.co.za


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