Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa
We write to you as civil society organisations working in the interest of upholding democracy and improving our political system through greater transparency. The gap in political party financial disclosure and monitoring regulation in South Africa’s political system is a danger to the democratic stability of our political and electoral systems. This gap undermines the legitimacy of our electoral system. In the absence of party funding transparency regulation, the public is robbed of and denied their constitutional right to be informed of the nature of relationships between political parties and their private funders.
We acknowledge that the South African parliament took it upon themselves to formulate the Political Party Funding Bill and we write this letter particularly in relation to your role on this Bill to pass the final stage and for it to be formally enacted. Although the Bill is long overdue, the speed with which it was managed through the Parliamentary process is commendable. Our understanding is that Parliament considered this Bill to be an urgent matter. After being adopted by the National Assembly on 27 March and by the National Council of Provinces on 28 June, it is now up to your Excellency to sign the Bill so that it can become an Act. We therefore ask you to sign the Bill as its implementation is urgent and necessary.
Civil society organisations have long campaigned for Parliament to regulate private political party funding and to make transparency a reality. On 21 June 2018, in the Constitutional Court matter between MVC and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the Court declared that information on political parties’ private donations is essential for the effective exercise of the right to vote. This ground-breaking Constitutional Court judgement strengthens South Africa’s democracy by validating the right to vote as a ‘rich’ right that is only fully realised if the electorate also has access to the information that they need in order to make an informed vote.
Political parties, and the ANC in particular, committed to initiating a legislative process that would address this lack of regulation during the Institute for Democratic Alternative in South Africa (IDASA)case in the Western Cape High Court (WCHC) in 2005. It is now over 13 years since that commitment was made and your signature on the Political Party Funding Bill is all that stands in the way of this positive and systemic reform to our political system. This reform improves not only the actions and policies of our political parties, but also on the rights of South African voters and the South African public.
The South African public wants to be sure that there is no undue influence on our political parties in the form of donations. The enactment of this Bill is required if we are to protect and maintain trust in our political parties and our electoral system. We request that you use the agency of your office to bring the legislative process to a close so that the implementation on this important matter can begin.
With the next national and provincial elections due to be held within 90 days of 8 May 2019 (potentially less than twelve months away) we urge you to expedite the signing of this Bill so that it may be brought into effect as soon as possible. This will enable the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC), the body mandated with managing the implementation of the legislation to operationalise the key aspects of the Bill relating to the transparency and regulation of private funding to political parties. This is particularly critical in the run-up to an election when party expenditure is at its peak.
On behalf of the organisations below, we ask that you sign this Bill without delay and affirm our Constitutional rights to access to information, to make political choices and to participate fully in elections.
Signatories to this letter:
My Vote Counts
Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape
Open Democracy Advice Centre
Right 2 Know
South African National Editors’ Forum
As published in the Mail & Guardian dated 10 August 2018. Also found at link: Sign party fund Bill, Cyril
My Vote Counts NPC is a non-profit company founded to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections and politics in the Republic of South Africa. We work to ensure that the political and electoral systems are open, fair and accountable to the public and that they remain relevant in the changing South African socio-political context.