President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Political Party Funding Bill into law. The signing of this Bill is a truly historic event in South Africa’s political history. When implemented it will drastically enhance the transparency, accountability and inclusiveness of our country’s political and electoral system.
Since 2012, My Vote Counts (MVC) has advocated for and consistently applied pressure on South African political parties, Parliament and the Presidency to enact legislation for the continuous and systematic disclosure of political parties’ private funding.
That the Bill has been signed during the Bosasa scandal and against the backdrop of the State Capture inquiry and the VBS bank saga seems rather apt. As we continue as a country to uncover the depths of such attacks on our political system, a piece of legislation such as this will serve as a vital element of the checks and balances needed to mitigate further corruption.
It is however regrettable that the signing of the Bill comes at a stage where it is likely to have no impact on the upcoming 2019 provincial and national elections. Last year, MVC requested that the Presidency sign by November 2018 in order to give the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) the stipulated period of six months to implement systems.
This delay means that the South African electorate will, once again, go to the polls without access to this most crucial piece of information. It seems likely that this will only happen after the elections and is a genuine missed opportunity to deepen our democracy. The Constitution protects the political right of every person to make an informed vote. Voting without knowing who funds our political parties undermines this right.
While the law may not yet be in effect, there is nothing stopping political parties from simply disclosing this information publicly. To do so before the elections would be a sign of good faith and an indication that political parties sincerely support the principle of transparency. We urge all political parties to make these disclosures.
Similarly, we urge all South Africans to make use of this right to access information and demand that political parties divulge from which sources they receive their funding.
While the circumstances may not be perfect, we need to acknowledge the importance of this as a critical building block in our country’s young democracy.