A victory for transparency and accountability!
Today the Presidency announced that the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) will come into operation on 1 April 2021. My Vote Counts (MVC) welcomes this genuinely historic advancement towards greater transparency and accountability in our politics and for our democracy.
This law will fundamentally improve and deepen our ability to exercise our political rights from an informed position. For the first time in our country’s history, political parties will need to disclose the sources and amounts of private funding they receive and this will be available to the public. The regulatory framework the law creates will also serve to clamp down on corruption and the undue influence of private interests in our politics. The PPFA will also repeal our current public funding legislation (Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act) and create a Represented Political Party fund. This will be to the benefit of smaller parties and will strengthen our multi-party democracy.
MVC and many civil society organisations have for years been advocating for legislation to create a transparency framework to ensure political parties disclose their private funding information. This is to provide voters and the public with crucial information when they go to the polls and to make other political choices as well as to deter corruption.
In 2018 in the My Vote Counts NPC v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and Another Constitutional Court case, we challenged the Promotion of Access to Information Act for failing to facilitate access to private funding information. The judgment stressed that the right to vote, read with the right to access information, necessitated that this omission in the law be remedied. The PPFA and the Promotion of Access to Information (PAIA) Amendment Act (still to be implemented) largely remedy this lacuna in our law.
When the President signed the PPFA into law in January 2019, no date was gazetted for promulgation. For a year MVC has been calling on the President to set down a date for implementation and most recently wrote to the President in December 2020 requesting an urgent indication of when the PPFA and the related PAIA Amendment Act will be operational. It is regrettable that when the PPFA finally does come into effect it will be two and a quarter years since it was signed into law. This delay did infringe on our constitutional rights and allowed political parties to continue to receive and solicit funds from private sources in secret.
However, we must recognise that the PPFA is truly a ground-breaking law and as we get closer to its implementation, we need to be thinking about how the information it facilitates access to and the regulatory framework it creates can best be used to develop transparency, accountability, and good governance. We are also hopeful that its April implementation date will mean that when we go to the polls to vote in the local government elections scheduled for later this year, we will for the first time ever have this essential information – disclosures of the private funding of political parties – available to us.
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.