Civil society organisations are lamenting President Cyril Ramaphosa’s 11th-hour signing into law of the Political Party Funding Bill, saying that the delay will ensure South Africans will yet again go to the polls in the dark over who is funding political parties.
The presidency issued a statement late Tuesday night saying that Ramaphosa, who is currently attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, had signed into law the bill which had been on his desk for a few months.
The much anticipated bill compels political parties to disclose annually who their private funders are. The legislation also prohibits parties from accepting funds from foreign governments and state-owned enterprises.
Lobby group My Vote Counts had been advocating fiercely for the legislation and although the organisation welcomed the move, it said that Ramaphosa waited too long.
“Last year, My Vote Counts requested that the Presidency sign by November in order to give the Independent Electoral Commission the stipulated period of six months to implement systems,” the group said.
“This delay means that the South African electorate will, once again, go to the polls without access to this most crucial piece of information. It seems likely that this will only happen after the elections and is a genuine missed opportunity to deepen our democracy. The Constitution protects the political right of every person to make an informed vote. Voting without knowing who funds our political parties undermines this right.”
Right2Know expressed a similar sentiment.
“We are disappointed that this comes more than five months since My Vote Counts and the Right2Know Campaign called on President Ramaphosa to sign the Bill when it was already on his desk. The delay ensures that the law’s transparency clauses will not be implemented before the 2019 national elections. Once again, political parties will be able to receive millions of rands from secret sources to campaign for our votes, without having to account for one cent.”
The ANC issued a statement even before the presidency made the official announcement, welcoming the move and saying it was good for a young democracy.
The bill came as the governing party was confronted with serious accusations made against some of its senior leaders during testimony at the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into State Capture.
Former chief operations officer of controversial company Bosasa, Angelo Agrizzi, has claimed that a number of senior leaders were receiving monthly stipends from the company as bribes.
He also said that the company footed the bill for things such as food and cake for major ANC events.
Ramaphosa himself is yet to provide clarity on when he will pay back R500 000 to Bosasa.
He allegedly received the money from its chief executive Gavin Watson as a donation for the presidential race within the ANC that set him up for the country’s top job.
The EFF are demanding that Ramaphosa address the Bosasa payment before the state of the nation address, taking place on February 7, or be forced to answer the questions on that occasion.