Smaller parties welcome Political Funding Act which comes into effect today
Johannesburg - Smaller political parties have mixed reactions to the Political Funding Act which comes into effect today.
The Act was signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa last year, but he recently announced the commencement day as 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 first reporting to the commission is expected by June – ahead of the local government elections.
The Act will see two funds established, the new fund is the Multi-party Democracy Fund. This fund will receive money from private donations whether in or outside the country.
Political parties will be limited in what they can spend the money from the two funds on.
The disclosure part of the Act will 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.
The Act has been welcomed by some political parties while others have expressed reservations.
The African Transformation Movement, which has two seats in Parliament, said it welcomed the fund because it would open up an avenue for transparency.
The party's spokesperson Sibusiso Mncwabe said the party believes the fund will help fight corruption.
"We welcome it because we are not funded by anyone, any South African business and foreign business. It will strengthen accountability and it will make political parties work according to resolutions of their own members and not be influenced by anyone.
"Sometimes people implement policies according to what their funders want. It will help with issues such as state capture and corruption," Mncwabe said.
ActionSA, which was launched in 2019, appears doubtful of the intentions of the act, especially in the South African context.
Paul Boughey, the party's head of fundraising, said there was legitimate fear among donors that the disclosure part of the Act could leave them vulnerable to retribution from the ANC.
"We have always supported the principle of transparency in party funding. However, we live in a dominant party system where there is a legitimate fear from some donors that where the details, as required by the act, be made public they will face some form of retribution from the ANC.
"Either through access to contracts, or the use of government agencies to punish them. That could have the opposite effect of actually weakening the multi-party democracy as opposed to strengthening it," Boughey said.
Al Jama-Ah, which has one seat in Parliament, said the fund was long overdue. The party's leader said the fund was important for dealing with corruption.
"We think that it is long overdue and it will help in stopping corruption and looting, as big business fund political parties for their own agendas and to get tenders and influence the policy of the country," the party's leader Ganief Hendricks said.
Hendricks brushed off claims that the fund could make it difficult for smaller parties to fund-raise because donors would be fearful.
He also welcomed the changes made to funding received by political parties. He said smaller parties would now be able to spend more on campaigning and attracting voters.
"We have been attending all the IEC meetings and we are ready to comply with the new law. What we also liked about it is that money will be shared amongst all the parties, so that means our funding will increase and enable us to increase funding and campaign and increase our seats," Hendricks said.