In June 2018, the Constitutional Court confirmed the ruling by the Western Cape High Court which found that the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was not constitutional. This was because PAIA did not provide for the disclosure of political parties’ private funding information. 

The Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng ruled that the appropriate amendment of PAIA to allow for the disclosure of this information be done by Parliament within 18 months. The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services called for oral submissions on the amendment of PAIA. 

The hearings took place on the 17th and 18th of September 2019. amaBhungane, Allan Gray and James Turnbridge (a private citizen) gave their oral submissions on the first day of hearings, while My Vote Counts (MVC), Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), the Helen Suzman Foundation, The Information Regulator as well as the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) all made their submissions on the 18th.

MVC put it to the committee that they need to reconsider whether the Amendment Bill remedies the defects of PAIA in terms of the Court’s declaration that private party funding information as well as that of independent candidates was essential for citizens’ right to effectively exercise their right to make political choices and participate in elections. 

In addition, MVC believes that all donations should be disclosed as even though some might think that R100 000 is a trivial amount; it is for many South Africans, a substantial amount of money and can therefore “buy” influence. This R100 000 threshold could also be manipulated. 

More oral submissions followed, with other organisations not only in support of our submissions, but giving additional suggestions as well.

MMA touched on the disclosure of paid-for social media advertising. They were met with some concerns from the Democratic Alliance’s Glynis Breytenbach and was asked why there should be a need to record social media advertising.

The Information Regulator said that no entity should be immune from complying with PAIA. They said that as an organisation, they have been dealing with PAIA for about 20 years. They also added that this information should be accessible on the internet but as well as for those not able to access online information. 

The chairperson of the Portfolio Committee of Justice and Correctional Services said that submissions would be processed once they get back from recess on 8 October.

To read our submission to the committee, click this link

My Vote Counts NPC is a non-profit company founded to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the Republic of South Africa. We work to ensure that the political and electoral systems are open, fair and accountable to the public and that they remain relevant in the changing South African socio-political context.