By Siyabonga Mkhwanazi

The Political Party Funding Act is facing a challenge in court, with some of its sections being questioned on their constitutionality.

My Vote Counts has filed papers in the Western Cape High Court calling for the scrapping of the R100 000 limit that can be disclosed and that the R15 million donation be reduced.

The ANC has been mulling amending the law to allow for increasing the threshold that can be disclosed. It wanted R15 million disclosure to be increased to R50m or R100m.

The party had been complaining that since the law came into effect, it had been deserted by some of its funders who did not want to be named in public.

In its papers filed on Tuesday, My Vote Counts said some of the sections of the Act need to be amended.

Executive Director of My Vote Counts, Minhaj Jeenah, said the law only allowed parties to disclose how they used money they received from the IEC and not private donors.

He said there should not be a threshold on the amounts of money donated to parties.

He said amounts below R100 000 must be disclosed. Currently, the law allows parties to disclose more than R100 000. It also sets a threshold of R15m from one donor a year. This is the cap the ANC wants to be increased to either R50m or R100m.

Jeenah added that since the law came into operation, only 12 parties out of 1 540 parties have made public disclosures.

“Apart from the ANC, the DA and ActionSA, who have consistently received donations totalling millions, it is noteworthy that the Economic Freedom Fighters, a political party with 53 of the 400 members of the National Assembly, only received two donations above R100 000 in the 2022/3 year, totalling R352 600. Donations below R100 000 are plainly material in this context. Even the other smaller political parties which have received some donations above R100 000 have not received much more than one or a few hundred thousand Rand in total in donations above R100 000. Thus, donations below that amount would clearly be very material to such parties and potentially their policies,” sad Jeenah.

“The African Christian Democratic Party received R255 817.00 in donations above the threshold but R550 991.00 in donations below the threshold.

“The Democratic Alliance received R47 895.770 in donations above the threshold, and a substantial amount of R17 350.810 in donations below the threshold; and the Inkatha Freedom Party received R787 588 in donations above the threshold, but R1 600.054 in donations below the threshold,” he explained.

He added there was no way of tracking donations that cumulatively exceed the set threshold a year.

Jeenah further warned that the law was unconstitutional in allowing the president to change the limit that may be disclosed.

He said this could lead to the abuse of power.

“The PPFA gives the head of the national executive, being the President, the discretion to change the limit once there is a majority resolution to this effect in the National Assembly, which can be carried on a party-political basis by the ruling party, as it sees fit, and without the involvement of any independent body such as the IEC, opening up the process to political abuse. Indeed, the ANC has indicated its intention in January 2022 to increase the limit to R500,000 per donation. This would effectively mean that the vast majority of all donations will not be disclosed,” said Jeenah.

“In relation to section 8(2), the applicant submits that whilst a prescribed upper limit on donations from a single person or entity is necessary, the current limit of R15 million is excessively and unjustifiably high, which fails to mitigate the risk of rendering political parties bondaged to the dictates of private interests,” he said.

He said the President may change the limit that can be donated.

This puts the ANC in a pole position to do so, given its majority in Parliament, as it wants to increase the upper limit to R50m or R100m.

He said they need to review the Political Party Funding Act.

His successor Gwen Ramokgopa reiterated the position of amending the law to increase the limit that can be disclosed.

My Vote Counts said transparency was necessary for the private donation to parties to prevent corruption.


Originally published on IOL