Political parties ‘must reveal their donors’

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helen zille jan 30 REUTERS Democratic Alliance leader Helen Zille. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko

Cape Town - The back-and-forth over political party funding that followed claims DA leader Helen Zille had accepted a donation from the Gupta family continued on Monday, with the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) adding its voice to growing calls for the regulation of donations to parties.

Casac slammed Zille’s statement that the DA would introduce legislation forcing political parties to reveal their donors only when it “comes to power”, saying this was “disingenuous and disappointing”.

“The DA is already in power - in the City of Cape Town and the Western Cape provincial government. It is even more important that we know who funds them. With power comes responsibility and it is time the DA accepted that the public is sick and tired of this issue. There is no evidence that donors to the DA will suffer reprisals,” said Casac chairman Dr Sipho Pityana.

He said the “toxic” subject of political party funding continued to contaminate politics and undermine the constitutional principles of accountability and transparency, “as recent scandals involving both the ANC and DA have again shown”.

Responding on Monday, DA national spokesman Mmusi Maimane said there was clear evidence that donors to the DA would suffer reprisals.

“Firstly, the ANC is systematically favouring those individuals and companies that do donate to it. Secondly, one only has to look at the treatment FNB received for doing something the ANC did not approve of. If the ANC reacted so aggressively to some YouTube videos, one can only imagine what they would do to those companies that give money to their opponents.

“The only way transparent party funding can work is if all parties open their books simultaneously. We would have to be in power at the national level to be able to compel all political parties to reveal their sources of funding. The ANC in national government has the power to do so now, but they have chosen not to.”

Casac has called on all political parties to take immediate action to regulate political party funding before the start of the 2014 election campaigns.

“It must be recalled that political parties declared to the Cape High Court in 2005 in the case brought by Idasa that they will introduce appropriate legislation to regulate party funding. They have to date failed to abide by this promise. The ANC has also, at its Polokwane conference in 2007, adopted policy positions in favour of the regulation of political party funding.”

The issue of party funding arose in recent weeks after Zille withdrew from a New Age business breakfast as it was sponsored by state-owned enterprises. The New Age then featured a video clip on its website of Zille thanking Telkom for sponsoring one of the events in Cape Town last year.

Zille then spoke out about funding the DA received from an “executive” in a company (Sahara Computers) owned by the Gupta family - who are the majority shareholders in The New Age and said to have close business ties with President Jacob Zuma - in 2009.

The DA leader maintained it was acceptable for the Guptas to donate money to any political party “as long as they do not request or receive favours from a government using taxpayers’ money as a reward”.

ANC caucus spokesman Moloto Mothapo declined to be drawn on whether plans were in the pipeline to introduce legislation regulating party funding.

Cope leader Mosiuoa Lekota said on Monday the matter would be discussed on February 12 at a meeting of opposition parties.

“We, as Cope, feel very strongly about the question of party funding. It is quite clear that the distribution of available funding is unfairly skewed to the ruling party. The constitution is intended to promote democracy – but this cannot mean strengthening one party ahead of others.

“There is an urgent need to review the distribution of available resources for all political parties. There has to be a more balanced formula so that small parties are also reached.”

ACDP MP Steve Swart said the party had always supported transparency in party political funding.

“We are on record calling for legislation to be passed as part of the undertaking given following the Idasa court case.

“The ANC said they would definitely pass that legislation. It is crucial, in our view, that we know who are making donations to, particularly, the majority party and for there to be level playing fields.”

Swart said the ACDP believed donations should be paid to a central fund and allocated to small parties in a manner to be determined, possibly proportionally.

Political analyst Aubrey Matshiqi supported Casac’s call on parties to take action in regulating party funding - but said he did not believe it would happen.

“Money can distort public policy and therefore compromise our democratic experience as citizens. That is why all parties must divulge all their sources of funding.

“But it is not going to happen. The two biggest beneficiaries, the DA and the ANC, are not going to support it,” Matshiqi said.

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