In January 2016, we had one revelation about the relationship between money and politics. At the time, UDM leader, Bantu Holomisa, claimed he had received a tip-off that the PIC had ‘channelled’ money to the ANC to help fund its 104-year anniversary celebrations. He also made a request to the Public Protector to investigate. A year later, January 2017 has revealed two serious developments as to why the political party funding environment in South Africa must be regulated.
The first revolves around recent reports that the ANC operated a ‘war room’ that included directives to ‘disempower DA and EFF campaigns’ and that at least one of the ‘volunteers’ involved would be remunerated through money sourced from private donors so that the ANC’s part in this would not be revealed. There are two issues here: the first involving the purpose of the ‘war room’ to ‘disempower DA and EFF campaigns’ is an electoral issue that must be investigated and addressed by the IEC. Whether or not this broke any existing electoral regulations or code is beside the point, the communications landscape has changed and the IEC must protect and ensure the integrity of our elections and this includes responding to the current communications context that we find ourselves.
Secondly, there is a glaring omission in the current discourse relating to these developments as most of the discourse seems to focus on the ‘fake news’ narrative currently making the rounds. However, if the claims are true, then this means that our current preoccupations with wanting greater transparency around private political funding will not provide us with a comprehensive understanding of the relationship between money and politics in the country. What this case suggest is that political parties find many avenues to fund their campaigning activities, and that South Africa will have to look beyond the data provided by political parties to ascertain their funding relationships.
The second serious development stems from a statement made by Mr Mzwanele Manyi (PPF) in Parliament earlier this week. Mr Manyi made the claim that the FICA Bill currently before a Parliamentary Committee, would be used by unnamed forces to embarrass and blacklist ANC donors “so that when we get to 2019 the ANC is as broke as hell”. What Mr Manyi has done is to draw a link between an anti-money laundering bill and ANC funders, and in so doing has inferred that donations to the ANC will be affected by the passing of the Bill. What this further infers is that either money is being laundered into the ANC’s coffers or that those that donate to the ANC are involved in money-laundering. If any of this is true, we should all be very worried, or at the very least prepare ourselves for an incredible fight to maintain the integrity and trust in our electoral and political systems.