Dear Friends,

INTRODUCTION

The MyVoteCounts (MVC) Campaign was launched on 28 July 2012 at the District Six Museum in Cape Town and was attended by more than 40 social activists, all of whom participated in their personal capacities. The occasion was marked by speeches from veteran activist Zackie Achmat, and well-known cartoonist Jonathan ‘Zapiro’ Shapiro. The campaign, founded on democratic principles, aims to increase accountability and transparency within South African politics, particularly in relation to elections, electioneering and campaigning. That day the Campaign established an interim committee of voluntary members who would not be paid for their participation in the campaign but were tasked with the responsibility to establish a working plan for the campaign.

ACHIEVEMENTS OF 2012

Between the launch and the year end, the interim committee achieved the following:

    • Developed a set of founding principles;

    • Started an online petition;

    • Wrote a letter to the Speaker of Parliament as well as all political parties on 8 November 2012 requesting all entities to advise the campaign of the plans in respect of party funding reform;

    • Exchanged correspondence with the Chief Electoral Officer;

    • Raised R50,000 from the Raith Foundation;

    • Built a comprehensive website; and

    • Obtained a legal opinion from a leading law firm setting out our prospects of success should we decide to go to court on either issue.

Lastly, we reaffirmed our commitment to being an open, non-partisan community of citizens dedicated to advancing the constitutional principles of transparency, inclusiveness and accountability in South Africa, asking for two specific reforms:

(i) We want a representative Parliament chosen by the people, not by political parties; that is, a new electoral system with mixed constituency and proportional representation that allows voters to choose our own MPs and allows independent candidates to contest elections; and

(ii) We want comprehensive reform of the funding of political parties to make them 100% open and transparent, responsive, proportionally and neutrally funded to exclude any  influence from special interests.

GOVERNANCE

At our first committee meeting of the new year on 18 January 2013 we decided that in order to grow the campaign we needed to elect a national coordinating committee and establish provincial committees. Zukie Vuka (campaign coordinator), Axolile Notywala (from the Social Justice Coalition) and Gregory Solik (interim treasurer and head of policy and research at Ndifuna Ukwazi) were elected to co-opt members onto the National Committee from both Johannesburg and Cape Town, which they duly did through public meetings on 16 and 25 February 2013. They also established two provincial committees, or chapters.

We believe that this has greatly increased the independence and representivity of the campaign. The National Committee will meet as soon as possible to develop a comprehensive campaign strategy and other governing principles, including the working relationships between the different committees. The provincial chapters will also meet, and the intended function will be to ignite discussion on topics of democracy, host workshops on civic education, share education materials, foster collaboration and increase youth involvement in the upcoming elections.

The members elected are as follows:

National Committee:

Greg Solik; Axolile Notywala; Zukiswa Vuka; Thokozile Qalanto; Phumza Somlota; Alungile Memani; Bheka Nkonyane; Mabine Seabe; Kay Sexwale

Johannesburg Chapter: Sarashni Nkonyane; Sqhalo Ntshobane; Liz Molomo; Loni Mamatela

Ben Winks

Cape Town Chapter: Athenkosi Fofi; Unathi Zengezi; Brad Brockman

2013 PLAN OF ACTION

We requested the IEC to take a position on the issue of party funding reform proposed by us after a meeting at their offices in Centurion on 14 January 2013 and a formal letter sent to their offices. The IEC informed us that it “has not taken a decision on whether or not to support legislation to regulate private and public funding of political parties.” We will continue to engage with them.

Furthermore, as you may know, Between 13 – 15 August 2012, the People’s Power, People’s Parliament Conference (Conference) created a platform for civil society to debate questions, deliberate on concerns, dialogue with public representatives, and collectively find ways to support the legislatures in their contribution to realising the socio-economic promises of the constitution. The first recommendation was the introduction of party funding and electoral reform.

During the conference a task team, comprised of organisers and delegates, compiled a Memorandum that was handed over to parliament’s leadership. Many organisations who supported this Conference, support the MVC Campaign and the organisers of each entity are collaborating on securing a meeting with Parliament.

The conference requested the leadership of National Parliament and the provincial legislatures, through the Speaker’s Forum, to table this memorandum for discussion in the houses of assembly provincially and nationally, and respond to it within 60 days (12 November 2012).

Our short term goals are thus to:

(i) secure a meeting with Parliament to discuss party funding reform urgently;

(ii) develop a campaign strategy through an inclusive and deliberative process; and

(iii) create awareness about the campaign.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

We have uploaded important reading material to our website, including the Van Zyl Slabbert Report, ANC Resolution dealing with Party Funding Reform and several other fact sheets that you may find useful.

We point out that Resolution (9.14) from the Mangaung Conference states that all outstanding matters from the previous conference dealing with Funding and Finance, be finalised within 12 months. Resolution 63 from the previous conference (ANC 52nd National Conference) directly addresses party funding regulation and as it is still an outstanding matter, should therefore be dealt with within 12 months, according to resolution 9.14.

Resolution 63 from the 52nd National Conference
“The ANC should champion the introduction of a comprehensive system of public funding of representative political parties in the different spheres of government and civil society organisations, as part of strengthening the tenets of our new democracy.”

If you would like to read more about party funding and electoral reform in the press, go to: http://www.myvotecounts.org.za/press/

If you would like to read analytical articles written by the Open Society Foundation go to http://osf.org.za/publication-types/money-and-politics-project/

HOW YOU CAN GET INVOLVED

There are several ways to get involved:

(i) Sign the campaign statement as an individual and get friends and family to do the same;

(ii) Contact us to volunteer your skills in events/media/fund-raising/research

(iii) Donate some money;

(iv) Join the conversation. (Follow and tweet at us on Twitter at MVC_SA, find us on Facebook at My Vote Counts)

CONCLUSION

MyVoteCounts is committed to promoting a healthy democracy and believes that our aims can do so. These aims cannot be achieved without the engagement of all concerned citizens and organisations.

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it comes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in essence, is fascism- ownership of government by an individual, by a group.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt