- Three billionaires are dominating the political party funding scene in South Africa.
- Top political parties in the country have all been given money by the same three people.
- Patrice Motsepe, Martin Moshal, and the Oppenheimer Family are the top donors.
South Africa’s top political parties may disagree on almost everything, but they have one thing in common: all of them eat out of the same funding bowl.
Three billionaires, Patrice Motsepe, Martin Moshal, and the Oppenheimer Family have exerted their influence to the tune of over R100 million in the last two years.
The ANC, DA, ActionSA, the EFF, IFP and the Freedom Front Plus received millions from these three donors.
Furthermore, every political party that disclosed had a small group of funders that contributed at least 50% to 70% of their overall donations.
Details of the colossal political party funding were shared during a webinar by lobby group My Vote Counts, which is approaching the Western Cape High Court to declare the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) unconstitutional because it does not provide suitable transparency and control.
My Vote Counts researcher, Robyn Pasensie, said large donors to political parties were in the minority yet made up most of the overall donations.
Martin Moshal, an Israeli-South African businessman, cumulatively donated R44.5 million.
He has only donated to two parties, the DA and ActionSA, which is not represented in Parliament.
Pasensie said Moshal’s donations accounted for 16% of all the donations received by political parties.
Billionaire Patrice Motsepe, through three of his companies, African Rainbow Minerals, Harmony Gold and Botho Botho (Ubuntu-Botho Investments), has cumulatively donated R36.8 million
These donations were to various political parties, including the ANC, DA, EFF, Inkatha Freedom Party and the Freedom Front Plus.
Through various family members, the Oppenheimer’s cumulatively donated R33.5 million. These donations were split between the DA and ActionSA.
Zooming in on the ANC, Pasensie said in the 2021/2022 financial year, the ANC received just over R66 million in private donations.
“Three were made at the upper limit of R15 million by the Batho Batho Trust, Chancellor House and United Manganese of Kalahari (UMK) – 70% of total donations. In the 2022/2023 financial year, the ANC had a significant dip in their earnings, raking in about R15 million less. [It] received a R1.5 million donation from the Ichikowitz Family Foundation in the 2022/2023 financial year. Its chair is Ivor Ichikowitz, who is the executive director of Paramount Group,” Pasensie said.
UMK has links to Russian Viktor Vekselberg’s conglomerate, the Renova Group.
The DA received R46 million in private donations in 2021/2022.
During the 2022/2023 financial year, the DA received the largest amount of private funding totalling R54.4 million, outstripping the ANC, which received R51.5 million.
“During 2021/2022, 64% of [the DA’s] funding came from only two donors: Mary Oppenheimer Slack and Martin Moshal. [The DA] consistently received funds from foreign donors [like the] Friedrich Naumann Foundation [which is linked to Germany’s Free Democratic Party], Danish Liberal Democracy Program [development arm of the Danish political party Venstre] and Volkspartij Voor Vrijheid en Democratie [Dutch political party]. Foreign donors have cumulatively donated a total of R7.8 million,” Pasensie said.
Although ActionSA is not represented in Parliament, it received R25.3 million in 2021/2022 and R26.4 million in 2022/2023.
In the 2021/2022 financial year, ActionSA received large donations from both Moshal (R7.5 million) and members of the Oppenheimer family – R10 million cumulatively across three Oppenheimer family members.
Two donations are 62% of ActionSA’s total donations. During the 2022/2023 financial year, Moshal and the Oppenheimer have remained present and significant donors to the party. During this financial year, the Oppenheimers accounted for 60.5% [R16 million] of the party’s overall donations with Moshal coming in at 26.5% [R7 million].
According to Pasensie, the PPFA is invalid and unconstitutional.
“It fails to require a political party to disclose all private donations received by and made to it and fails adequately to impose controls on the private funding of political parties,” she said.
She also said the act falls short because it limits the disclosure of any single or a combination of donations by the same donor to amounts over a particular threshold.
“It does not, in any event, regulate cumulative donations by donors who are related to one another,” Pasensie said.
Caroline James, an advocacy coordinator at the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism, said the PPFA had some positive elements.
The disclosures enable investigations to determine whether the payments were mere lobbying or something more serious.
“We need to keep pushing for full disclosure – advocacy around the potential amendments to the Political Party Funding Act should be for enhanced and not diminished disclosure obligations. We should think deeply about whether it is beneficial to have a threshold for disclosure – difficult to determine lobbying vs bribery,” she said.
Originally published on News24