Johannesburg - Civil society organisations have reacted with outrage to the ANC’s proposal to urge Parliament to increase the limit on monies donated to parties in line with the Political Party Funding Act (PPFA).
The ANC has called for the increase of the limit that is donated to parties a year to between R50 million and R100m by an individual or entity or scrapping the limit completely. The law curbs the limit to R15m that can be donated by an individual or entity a year to a party.
The ANC’s National Working Committee (NWC) in its report tabled at the National Executive Committee (NEC) complained that the PPFA which came into effect on April 1 last year, has seen an adverse reduction in the capacity of political parties to mobilise resources for their activities and for elections campaigns.
The report further stated that although no information was available about private donations to parties prior to the act becoming operational, it is illuminating that the total donations recorded to political parties, for 2021 quarter one was just R30m and for quarter two, an elections period, six parties recorded just under R57 million received in private donations. No foreign donations were declared during Q1/2021, during Q2/2021 just R 467 007 of foreign donations were declared for stated purpose in the act (policy and training) by the DA and Action SA.
On the other hand, in the 2021/2022 budget, when the PPFA started being operational, the increase in public funding for political parties was envisaged to increase at 1.8% average rate over the medium-term expenditure framework period from 2021 to 2024.
The report further states that the PPFA also prohibits funding of political parties through provincial legislatures, thus further reducing public funding of political parties and in effect, the system of multi- party democracy.
“Since the PPFA came into effect, only a single donation of R2 000 was made into the Multi-Party Democracy Fund. The regulations provide for the IEC to distribute monies from the fund to political parties, only once donations to the fund have reached R1 million. To date, no monies have been distributed from this fund,” the report stated.
The ANC recommended that: “Reiterate principled support for Political Party Funding Act.
“Increase the upper limit to R50-100 million per year from a person or entity or alternatively, consider doing away completely with an annual upper limit for donations to political parties.
“Increase the upper limit on donations from foreign entities (restricted to training and policy research and currently limited to a total of R5 million for all sources) or alternatively, that it should not exceed a certain percentage (25-40%) of total party training and policy research budget.
“Increase the threshold for disclosures to R250 000 or R500 000 per annum. In this regard, we need to proceed with caution. NGOs were opposed to any threshold,” said the report.
It further said “R100 000 was a compromise. Too high a threshold might provoke litigation. R250 000. We can also consider proposing an amendment to the act to provide for higher threshold / limits in the year preceding an election. Definition of donations, to explicitly exclude dividends and/or investments of and on behalf of a political party.”
Civil society organisations such as My Vote Count; the Helen Suzman Foundation, the Right2Know and Defend our Democracy Campaign had condemned the ANC’s proposals.
In their joint statement, the parties said: “We are deeply concerned by political party attempts to undermine or repeal the groundbreaking Political Party Funding Act (PPFA). These attempts are not in the interest of the people. They are attempts to weaken our democracy and to allow our politics to be further beholden to private interests.”
According to civil society organisations, the ANC’s proposals came despite the Zondo Commission showing how influence could be bought with as little as R100 000 and below.
“They also want the upper-limit a single donor can donate to a party per year to be increased from R15m to R50m – R100m, or just be scrapped entirely! This would allow private capital to wield an absurd amount of influence over parties.
“Further, they want the act to exclude dividends and investments of political parties. Thus, donations from investment arms such as Chancellor House (which donated R15m to the ANC in the previous quarter) will not need to be disclosed.”
According to civil society this would create further opportunities for secrecy and nefarious influence in our politics, saying these thresholds were the lifeblood of the legislation and to remove it is to repeal the law.