It’s been a robust few weeks! At the end of last month, the ANC revived its campaign to amend the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA). Their newly elected treasurer-general, Gwen Ramakgopa told the party’s leadership that it must immediately launch the process to drastically expand the funding thresholds and limitations in the party funding act. The party’s NEC made a similar resolution at the end of 2021, agreeing to lobby parliament within the first quarter of 2022 (that didn’t happen).
If you’ve been following our work, you already know what the PPFA is. But just in case, here’s a brief: the PPFA came into effect in April 2021 and is one of the country’s most important laws since the dawn of democracy. It forces political parties to disclose annual donations above
R100 000, places an annual limit of R15 million for a single party donor and makes provision for a multi-party democracy fund that donors who are actually interested in democracy can contribute to. Fundamentally, it addresses the weakening of democracy by money’s influence in politics. Since before 1994, money has been used to influence decisions that affect us all, subverting a key tenant of democracy — the people must govern.
Now, a few years after it supported the enactment of the law, the ANC (and almost every other party) wants to render it almost useless. The party’s justification for attempting to undermine progress on deepening transparency and people’s power is, as the party insists, that the law is the cause of its financial woes (it isn’t).
As the members at the NEC’s February meeting displayed their disdain for democracy, the party made public its 2022 National Conference Report. The Conference is the highest decision-making body of the party and, according to the report, recognised that:
- The ANC’s 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 should exist as public entities.
The conference resolved that to address these issues, 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 NEC’s resolution to expand the PPFA’s disclosure thresholds is utterly nonsensical. We’ve tried but are really not sure what to make of it.
The party is riddled with contradictions, but this stark cognitive dissonance must be addressed with urgency. If the party does take its PPFA amendments to parliament, they will not only display a disdain for democracy, but they will aggressively defy their own mandate.
We are, with resolve, intensifying our campaign to strengthen the Political Party Funding Act (which, based on its conference resolution, the ANC should back). We will also be exploring effective frameworks to deepen public funding of our politics (like the ANC should be doing) and stop the use of money to influence our politics. More on these within the next month!