Judgment has been reserved in the Constitutional Court whether political parties must systematically make the information of donations public.
Civil Organisation My Vote Counts is seeking a declaratory order upholding a high court judgement that such information must be made available.
The High Court also found that the Act used to access information, Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) is unconstitutional as it doesn’t obligate parties to record and disclose funding information.
The job of the highest Court has been made a bit easier as Parliament has already drafted a bill that obligates parties to disclose private funding.
My Vote Counts says all amounts must be disclosed, which is a deviation from a current bill in parliament which only require disclosures of amounts above R100 000.
While My Vote Count is not arguing on the validity of the bill, it says all amounts must be recorded and readily available even if on party websites.
Counsel for My Vote Counts, Adv. Maz du Plessis says “There is principle that all donations must be disclosed.”
The DA which had previously opposed this application in the High Court has sat this hearing out.
Leaving only the Minister of Justice, who argues that there are limitations to access of private information.
The Minister of Justice, Michael Masutha, is opposing the application. Counsel for Minister of Justice, Adv. Thabani Masuku says, “Private funding information is important … it’s a constitutional duty to ensure that the funding is not used to undermine our democracy.”
However counsel does concede that voters may need access to party funding information. Hence parliament started the process of drafting a private funding bill.
Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng asked, “Parliament, why wouldn’t they drop this bill and they don’t carry through on the Act. Then there is no articulation … just as they have set back as they have done over 24 years.”
The bill bars parties from accepting funding from foreign governments and banned entities.
In June last year, the Western Cape High Court ruled that the Promotion of Access to Information Act is inconsistent with the Constitution as it does not compel parties to disclose their funding.
The National Coordinator for My Vote Counts, Janine Ogle, says they approached the highest court in the land to confirm that ruling.