Under the new Political Party Funding Act, all political parties taking part in elections must now declare their donations above R100 000. However, while it is widely acknowledged by civil society groups as a victory for more transparent elections, there are still concerns about its implementation.

The Act came into effect on April 1.

IEC prepares to implement Party Funding Act as of 1st April 2021:

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the bill into law earlier in 2021.

It requires parties to disclose their funders so that voters can make informed decisions about their their preferred political party before making their cross. Donations of up to R15 million will be allowed. Parties are not allowed to accept donations from foreign donors or from the South African government and its entities among others.

The Act also provides for the establishment of a Multi-Party Democracy Fund into which private donations can be paid. These will then be distributed among parties in the national and provincial legislators.

A representative from My Vote Counts, Sheilan Clarke, says while the Act is a victory for transparency, there remain many challenges.

“The R100 000 threshold is too high. My Vote Counts and others have said it’s too high. R10 000, R20 000 or R50 000 is enough to buy a local government councillor, so those things can still happen and we won’t know because they’re not mandated to disclose; that disclosure threshold too high,” says Clarke.

Political Party Funding Act under scrutiny:

Other issues of concern

The Programme Officer at the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa, Noxolo Gwala, highlights some of the issues they are concerned about. “We have done a pilot in 2019, very practical one where during campaigning. We would ask, ‘so, how much did you pay for transport?’ And they would say, ‘no we, got this bus from a party member who owns busses.’ How would you quantify that?

Also, the entry of independent candidates – while the Act tries it simplify it – it doesn’t go deep enough. In terms of funding from foreign entities for skills and policy development, there is no way to track; it can still be open for abuse,” says Gwala.

The IEC has indicated that it would be ready to implement the Act before the country holds local government elections planned for August.

IEC briefs political parties on implementation of Political Party Funding Act: