Media Statement: My Vote Counts launches legal challenge to strengthen the Political Party Funding Act
16 May 2023

Today, we launch an application in the Western Cape High Court, challenging the constitutionality of aspects of the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA). The Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation since 1996 and has gone a long way in deepening transparency and strengthening the right to vote.

However, two years after the enactment of the PPFA and following various disclosures published by the Independent Electoral Commission, it is evident that the Act fails to meet its constitutional aims and thus needs to be strengthened.

For the past decade we have advocated for legislation that ensures transparency in political party financing. Prior to the PPFA’s enactment, we were critical of the preceding Political Party Funding Bill, particularly in relation to the aspects concerning the reporting threshold for and annual limit of private donations. Once the PPFA was enacted, we recognised it as the first phase of a process to open and democratise our politics.

While we appreciate the aims of the PPFA, it falls short of realising such aims as it requires political parties only to disclose private annual donations above R100 000 and places an excessive annual limit of R15 million per donor.

There is no evidence that suggests that these amounts were determined using any data or analysis. The threshold on disclosure (i.e. R100 000) and the annual limit (i.e. R15 million), limits the PPFA’s ability to achieve its constitutional aims of meaningfully strengthening democracy and giving effect to the constitutional imperatives of transparency, openness and accountability. Without full transparency and full disclosure of all private donations to political parties, voters are unable properly to assess the influence exerted by private interests over political parties and cast an informed vote. In addition, the excessive annual limit of R15 million leaves the door open to political parties being bondaged to the dictates of private interests.

Finally, the legislation does not require political parties to account for how private funding is spent, unlike the case in relation to public funding.

Therefore, our court application seeks to amend the PPFA, so that it provides for:

  • the disclosure of all private donations, not only those above R100 000;
  • the reduction of the upper annual limit of R15 million limit per donor;
  • the disclosure of financial information related to all expenditure of private donations;
  • limitations on donations from people or entities who are related to donors, so as to prevent circumvention of the upper limit.

My Vote Counts requests the Court to order that the constitutional invalidity in respect of the R100 000 disclosure threshold operates immediately from the date of the Court’s judgment, whereas relief in relation to other aspects be suspended until Parliament acts, within 12 months, to remedy those provisions of the PPFA.

Strengthening the PPFA will bring us closer to a democracy where our politics is transparent and open, public representatives are accountable to the people and money is not used to influence decisions that should be made for the public good.

You can view the full court application here.

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Sheilan Clarke
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