Political Funding Act welcomed, but with reservations
Johannesburg - The implementation of the Political Funding Act has been widely welcomed, but concerns remain over its monitoring and implementation by the IEC.
The Act was signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year and is set to come into full effect next week (April 1).
The IEC has had to set-up a mechanism of conducting its new powers and administrative duties in ensuring the Act is adhered to.
The new policy will see two funds established – with one being the Multi-party Democracy Fund.
This Fund will receive money from private local and international donors.
The disclosure part of the Act will also require political parties to disclose to the IEC donations above R100 000 and limited to R15 million in a financial year.
The responsibility for disclosure will also lie with the donor as they will also need to disclose these donations to the IEC.
At a webinar hosted on Wednesday by My Vote Counts, a civil society organisation that was at the forefront of the fight for the act, there was wide-ranging agreement from analysts that civil society played an important role.
Noxolo Gwala, the programme director at the Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, warned that the passing of the law was not the biggest achievement. She said the biggest test was whether monitoring of its implementation will be strong.
Gwala said that strong monitoring of compliance could amount to behavioural change from political parties.
Although the act limits the type of donations foreign donors can make to political parties, Gwala said there remained room for interference and influence especially as foreign donors would be allowed to make donations to training and skills programmes.
"There is no way of tracking if that will not be used to direct policy interests of political parties," Gwala said.
On whether there has been fear among political parties about the introduction of the act, political analyst Ralph Mathekga said the fear has been equally distributed across political parties.
He added that because there were so many unknowns ahead, this was a perfect environment that breeds unease.
Mathekga said the Act would be the bridge that builds and strengthens the relationship between political parties and the electorate.
On whether the IEC expects high levels of compliance or attempts to circumvent the regulations, the head of Political Funding at the IEC George Mahlangu said the organisation remains optimistic.
"I do not think we would want to start from a point that political parties won't comply. We are positive, but acknowledge we will have challenges. The responsibility rests with us and we need to provide guidance," Mahlangu said.
The IEC political funding reporting website is expected to go live on April 1 – allowing political parties to report.
The 2021 local government elections will see the first report on political party funding published by the IEC.
Gwala said these elections should be used as a litmus test for the general elections, especially with the disclosure of funds.