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! 

MVC Updates

Political party funding disclosures

This month 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. Read our response to the disclosures here and our Daily Maverick piece on the ANC’s funding conundrum here.

IEC commissioner nominations 

A functioning IEC is crucial for our democracy, and their processes must be transparent and open to scrutiny. We have written to Chief Justice requesting that the commissioner interviews be widely publicised and live streamed.  Read our review on last year’s IEC commissioner appointment process here.

Electoral amendment bill

At the end of last month, Parliament finally adopted the Electoral Amendment Bill, which may not meet constitutional muster. The President is due to sign the Bill into law anytime now. We will be following this closely and will update you on any action. In the meantime, you can read about the process here.  

The road to 2024

We participated in the amaBhungane Townhall: New Dawn, New Disappointments. You can watch the full discussion here.

One member, one vote

The ANC’s National Conference proposed a “one member, one vote” system, which could see the party do away with its delegate system. This is incredibly significant for the party’s internal democracy, and the democracy of the country. We unpack this argument in a News24 op-ed here.

The DA’s Federal Congress

We will be analysing the DA’s Federal Congress this weekend. The Congress will define how seriously the party takes its internal democracy, issues related to race and its electorate. We argued in News24 that the DA needs to tackle its race-based power dynamics. We will provide analysis following the conference. You can read our oped on this here