Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)
Picture: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

You will not believe who helps fund our big political parties

By Dominic Adriaanse and Francesca Villette Time of article published Apr 18, 2019

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Cape Town - Suspected fraudsters, money launderers and murderers have been cited as funders of some of the country’s big political parties in a report documenting sources of funding for political parties. 

The DA, governing party in the Cape Town metro and the Western Cape, is listed as receiving a “marginal amount” from a South African-born billionaire living in the UK, Nathan Kirsh, and a R400 000 donation from Stephen Nel, a director of the Gupta-owned Sahara Computers, between 2009/10.

It also received R500 000 at a fundraising event for the DA’s 2004 election campaign from German fugitive and fraudster Jürgen Harksen, who instructed his employee to write a cheque, according to the report.

Former Absa employee Eric Marais was fired by the bank in 2002 after it emerged that he had advanced a donation to the DA in an irregular manner (99000 Deutsche marks).

With three weeks to go before the much-anticipated elections, non-profit organisation My Vote Counts (MVC) released the report this week, shedding light on who funds the country’s political parties.

Foreign political organisations and questionable private persons had contributed large sums to the ANC, DA, EFF, IFP and the UDM over the past 25 years, according to the report.

The report showed that Czech fugitive Radovan Krejcir donated R2.5million for political asylum, the late businessman Brett Kebble R14m, the Taiwanese government $10m in 1994 and the Indian National Congress donated money in 2008. In 2004 Sanlam donated R1m to the ANC and the now-defunct New National Party (NNP).

The EFF’s list of donors included controversial businessman Adriano Mazzotti, who donated R200000 to be used for the party’s registration to contest the 2014 general elections.

In 2014, a co-director of Carnilinx tobacco firm, Kyle Phillips, provided EFF leader Julius Malema a R1m loan to be used towards a tax bill received from the SA Revenue Service.

My Vote Counts director Joel Bregman said that while the information was public knowledge, not all the sources referenced were available online or compiled collectively, as in the report.

“The new act has not come into effect yet, but we recognised that the average person had a right to know who was funding a party and for how long. Our report, using public records, shows all the historic funding that has taken place, not just within the ruling party but the opposition, too, as far back as 1994.

“The question now becomes: To what purpose did these private entities and, in certain cases, dodgy individuals fork over funding, and to what end? There perhaps is space for further investigation as there has never been a guideline for political parties to tread when it came to funding,” said Bregman.

He added that the testimonies made through the Zondo Commission had been a turning point in the country, and parties needed to be transparent and upfront with who was backing them financially, and to what end.

Last year, the Constitutional Court upheld the earlier Western Cape High Court order that the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) was unconstitutional in this regard, and gave Parliament 18 months to amend it. In January, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Party Funding Bill into law. 

The Bill was meant to come into effect on April 1, but has not yet been put into effect by the IEC because it said it didn’t have enough time before the elections. While the ANC and EFF had not responded by deadline, DA spokesperson Nicole Mirkin said: “Transparency of party funds is in principle a good thing, but it poses a severe risk to a multiparty democracy as there’s a risk that donors that support opposition parties will be subjected to victimisation of various forms.” 

Meanwhile, Western Cape High Court Judge Siraj Desai yesterday dismissed an application by nonpartisan movement the New National Movement (NNM) and several others that had sought an order declaring the

Electoral Act unconstitutional and invalid as it did not enable South Africans to both vote for, and stand as, independent candidates. The groups had argued that the voting system was inconsistent with the Constitution and did not “give effect to the will of the people”. 

In his judgment, Judge Desai said it was not justifiable for the high court to interfere in the parliamentary process. 

“The Constitution requires the exercise of political rights under section 19 to be regulated by national legislation. The Constitutional Court has recognised that ‘the mere existence of the right to vote without proper arrangements for its effective exercise does nothing for democracy, it is both empty and useless’. 

There appears to be no legislative framework to facilitate independent members standing for election, and the problem, if such, should be addressed at that level,” the judgment read.


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