My Vote Counts started out as a campaign in 2012 looking into the private funding of political parties. We tried using the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) to gain this information but found we couldn’t do so. We then approached the courts as we felt this was something that needed to be rectified. In 2017, the Western Cape High Court ruled in MVC’s favour deeming PAIA unconstitutional as it does not allow for the disclosure of private political party funding. Parliament was given 18 months to rectify this. The matter was then heard in the Constitutional Court in 2018 where the Court upheld the Western Cape High Court’s order. The Promotion of Access to Information Amendment Act was enacted on 1 April 2021.
The amendment made to the Promotion of Access to Information Act seeks to provide for information on the private funding of political parties and independent candidates to be recorded, preserved and made available.
This advocacy has also lead to the enactment of the Political Party Funding Act on 1 April 2021.
The Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) is a piece of legislation that regulates how political parties in South Africa are funded.
This Act aims to ensure that political parties are transparent in how they receive and report the funds that are donated to them. The Act is significant in South Africa as it is the first of its kind.
The Act stipulates the following:
- Political parties must disclose all donations received above R100 000 a year to the IEC every three months. This is a cumulative amount and means that smaller donations made by the same person or entity will be tallied and once it reaches R100 000 must be disclosed.
- The Act establishes the Represented Political Parties Fund (RPPF) and the Multi-Party Democracy Fund (MPDF).
- The Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises. Parties may however receive funding from foreign entities for training, skills development, or policy development. No member of a political party may receive a donation other than for political party purposes.
- The IEC regulates the disclosure of accepted donations, manages, and dispenses money for both the RPPF and MPDF and has oversight powers to ensure compliance to the Act. This means that the IEC can fine political parties who do not adhere to the Act properly.
- Political parties must deposit all donations received into a separate bank account and appoint an accounting officer who must do the following:
- 5.1 Account for all income received by the party.
- 5.2 Ensure any money from the Funds is not used for a prohibited purpose.
- 5.3 Ensure compliance with the Act.
- 5.4 Prepare financial statements showing all money received by the party.
- 5.5 Appoint an auditor to audit its financial statements annually and express an opinion on whether the party has complied with all aspects of the Act.
- 5.6 The Accounting Officer must submit the auditor’s opinion and financial statements to the Electoral Commission once a year.
This Act has the potential to fundamentally improve and deepen our ability to exercise our political rights from an informed position.
View a timeline of MVC’s journey to party funding transparency here