Issued by My Vote Counts and Corruption Watch
On 1 April 2021, we welcomed the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA) as a victory for transparency and accountability. The act has the potential to enhance transparency, deter corruption, allow us to better hold political parties accountable and, ultimately, deepen democracy.
On the very same day, the related Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA Amendment Act) also became operational. The amendment to PAIA stems from the Constitutional Court judgment in the case of My Vote Counts NPC and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services. In this case the Court found that PAIA was unconstitutional for the, ‘failure to provide for the recordal, preservation and disclosure on private funding of political parties and independent candidates.
What does the PAIA Amendment Act provide for?
The Act stipulates that political parties, as well as independent candidates, need to record the identity and amount of all private donations received over the threshold of R100,000. These records then need to be made available publicly on a quarterly basis and need to be kept for at least five years after the records were created.
The Act relies on definitions and provisions contained in the PPFA including what types of donations are allowed and prohibited and limits on donations in a financial year. The PAIA Amendment Act, however, focuses solely on the element of access to information.
Under the PPFA, political parties need to make quarterly disclosures to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). The IEC is then responsible for making this information available to the public. The PPFA is responsible for regulating both public and private donations, establishes the Multi-Party Democracy Fund, and sets in place fines for contravening the PPFA.
A key difference between the two laws is that under the PAIA Amendment Act, the onus rests with political parties and independent candidates to make this information publicly available physically at their offices and on their websites. The Act falls under the remit of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development.
Another important distinction between the two laws is that the PAIA Amendment Act requires both political parties and independent candidates to make these disclosures, whereas the PPFA only covers political parties.
Crucially this means that we should expect the first set of disclosures of private funding to be made under the PAIA Amendment Act and the PPFA before the upcoming local government elections scheduled for 27 October 2021.
Together, the two new laws will serve to radically reshape our ability to understand how our politics is financed and to better understand the links between private interests, political parties and politicians.
PAIA will help us defend our democracy
The Zondo Commission has been particularly revealing on how money has negatively influenced our politics and narrow private interests have devastated our democracy. As we await the finalisation of the Commission, the implementation of the PPFA and PAIA Amendment Act has become crucial in defending our democracy and protecting public institutions.
The acts have the potential to curb corruption and undue influence in our democracy. It will give civil society and ordinary people the power to access and act on information on who influences our politics. Importantly, it will allow us to make more informed decisions on which political parties we support.
My Vote Counts will continue to monitor the implementation of both acts. We also recognise the many flaws in them and will push for further amendments. We will use this victory to intensify our demands to ensure that our electoral and political systems are transparent, accountable and give power to people.