Ramaphosa temporarily halted from amending political party funding rules



Published Jun 2, 2024


MY Vote Counts has temporarily stopped President Cyril Ramaphosa from implementing the Electoral Matters Amendment Act (EMAA), which could have seen a relaxing of the limits to the reporting of donations to political parties.

Currently, registered political parties are required to declare all donations above R100 000 to the Electoral Commission of SA (IEC), and the amount each entity or individual can donate to a political party annually is capped at R15 million.

The non-profit organisation approached the Western Cape High Court in a bid to stop the implementation of the EMAA, which came into effect early last month.

The act allows Ramaphosa to amend the formula for the allocation of money in the represented political party fund on a proportional and equitable basis in respect of the upper limit of donations and the disclosure limit for donations.

In terms of the existing Political Party Funding Act, a political party may not accept a donation from a person or entity in excess of the prescribed amount within a financial year.

The prescribed amount has been R15m rand within a financial year since the law was promulgated in 2018.

In addition, the act provided that a political party must disclose every donation received above the prescribed threshold of R100 000 within a financial year.

My Vote Counts maintained that the EMAA created a lacuna and posed significant legal challenges, with a potential for grave opportunistic abuse of the framework for private funding of political parties.

”This lacuna arises because although the president is granted the discretion to set the upper limits of donations and the disclosure thresholds, these amendments have been enacted without establishing these specific limits or thresholds and without Parliament having authorised the determination of the limits by the president,” the organisation told the High Court.

As a result, there was currently no upper limit on the amount that may be donated to political parties, and there was no requirement for disclosure.

”This is a serious infraction of constitutional requirements, and this is accentuated by the fact that there are impending national and provincial elections, given the greater likelihood of large donations by corporate entities and individuals alike, especially those seeking to find favour with one or other political party.

“They would prefer for their contribution to have a veil of secrecy and may wish to contribute huge amounts, making use of the gap in legislation,” My Vote Counts said in its application.

This week, Judge Daniel Thulare agreed with My Vote Counts, finding that the EMAA would leave natural and juristic persons like the organisation totally without recourse if the act was allowed to be implemented as it is.

”The issue of a rule nisi (interim order) is authorised calling upon any interested person to show cause on August 12, 2024 (the return date), why an order in the following terms should not be granted,” his ruling states.

Judge Thulare said the interim order was pending the finalisation of proceedings to declare some sections of the EMAA and amended regulations of the Political Parties Funding Act inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid, and other relief, which must be instituted within 20 days of his order.

In the meantime, the upper limit should be deemed to have been determined at R15m per annum, while the disclosure threshold would be R100 000 a year.

Judge Thulare said his ruling would immediately operate as an interim order.

He gave directions to My Vote Counts to assist the High Court’s registrar to ensure that a copy of his order was publicly displayed on a prominent notice board, where members of the public have access, in the courthouse building.

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