Yesterday, the IEC published the political party funding disclosures covering October – December 2022. Significantly, the ANC disclosed R32 million, from just three donors. This makes up 80% of the total donations parties disclosed and is expected, considering the party held its 55th National Conference in the period.
The disclosures also came a few days after the ANC revived its campaign to amend the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) by instructing its MPs to initiate the process to expand the funding thresholds and limitations in the PPFA. This is completely unjustified, is an attempt to evade transparency and blatantly contradicts the party’s mandate on funding and sustainability.
The governing party wants the minimum amount that can be declared increased from R100,000 to up to R500,000. For this period’s disclosures, it would mean we wouldn’t see 50% of the donors. They are also considering scrapping the annual cap a party can receive from a single donor, which is currently capped at R15 million. In this period, the ANC disclosed R15 million each from Shell linked Batho Batho Trust and Russian linked United Manganese of Kalahari. Both donors would have obvious interests in influencing the party’s and government’s decisions. Expanding the annual cap would allow donors like them to wield absurd amounts of influence over decisions that affect all of us.
Expanding the thresholds will take us back to secrecy in our politics and will see the grip that private capital has on our politics strengthened and expanded.
The funding crisis pre-dates the PPFA
The ANC has justified its attempts to undermine the PPFA by placing the blame on the Act for their financial crisis. However, the party’s financial woes already emerged in 2014 when it was unable to pay its staff salaries for a few months, and planned on laying off almost half its staff. The party, then, recognised that its finances were in dire state at its 2017 conference, when the Treasurer-General reported that they faced a tax bill of R80 million. Four years later, the ANC President, Cyril Ramaphosa, put the PPFA into operation
The ANC’s financial crisis has little to do with party funding legislation. Changing the Act, therefore, will not help it emerge out of its crisis but will, in fact, renege on its stated commitment to transparency.
Contradicting its mandate
At its National Conference which concluded last month, the ANC recognised that:
- Its heavy reliance on private donor funding is a threat to its overall sustainability.
- When private entities fund political parties, they do so to serve their own interests.
- Some private donors have funded the party with an expectation to receive benefits through corruption.
- Political parties exist as public entities.
The PPFA, and its funding thresholds, exists to address most of these concerns. The Act:
- limits the influence of wealthy private entities and protects the independence of political parties by placing an annual cap on the amount that donors can donate to parties.
- deters corruption by enforcing a transparency framework in how parties are funded.
- ensures an element of public accountability on the internal workings of political parties.
Therefore, the party’s recent instruction to its MPs to call for an expansion or eradication of the funding thresholds is egregious and defies its own mandate.
Additionally, the Conference resolved that the state must fully fund political parties. Indeed, this could ensure greater transparency and public accountability and will limit the use of money to unduly influence our politics.
The ANC’s National Conference is its highest decision-making body. To defy its resolutions is to undermine the integrity of the party. The party’s leadership has no choice but to realise its commitments towards transparency and public accountability in relation to party finances. It must, instead, work towards a public funding model that recognises political parties as public entities and promotes their sustainability.
Attempts to undermine the PPFA will take us back to secrecy and is a threat to a key tenet of our democracy — the people must govern. We call on all political parties to put the interests of the people before the interests of wealthy elites and reject these attempts.