What the party funding judgment means
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Cape Town - The Western Cape High Court has ruled that information about private funding of political parties and ward candidates (for local government elections) should be declared.
Parliament has now been given 18 months to remedy the Promotion of Access to Information Act which was declared inconsistent with the Constitution as it does not allow for the “recordal and disclosure” of private funding information.
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services along with the DA were ordered to pay the costs of the application.
My Vote Counts had brought the court challenge, with the respondents including the President of South Africa, Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Minister of Home Affairs, the SA Human Rights Commission and all the political parties represented in Parliament.
My Vote Counts stated that a declaration of private party political funding was “reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote” in terms of the South Africa’s Bill of Rights.
It also sought an order from the court that the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid because it did not allow for the “continuous and systematic” recording and disclosure of private funding information of political parties.
Judge Shehnaaz Meer’s order comes as Parliament last week opened another opportunity to the public and civil society to make written submissions on proposed legislation to regulate funding of political parties.
Last week the Political Party Funding Bill was published in the Government Gazette, with interested parties given until October 16 to make written submissions.
In October 2015 the Constitutional Court dismissed My Vote Counts application before, stating that the applicants argument should have taken the form of a frontal challenge” in the High Court over the constitutionality of the current PAIA legislation.
The Democratic Alliance had argued in court that the application was “defective” because the Independent Electoral Commission had not been one of the respondents.
But Judge Meer said the core focus of the IEC was elections and how they were run, and not the access to information under Section 32 of the Constitution and the failings of PAIA.
“This being so, I am inclined to agree with the applicant that the IEC does not have direct and substantial interest in the relief sought by the applicant, directed as it is against the unconstitutionality of PAIA…,” wrote Meer.