/OPINION: Our legislation should no longer aid and abet corruption

OPINION: Our legislation should no longer aid and abet corruption

2019-10-06 07:00

Unlike those who can afford to donate money, cars, expensive alcohol and braai packs in exchange for access to political party and government officials, the average South African’s influence is limited to the elections, writes Lelethu Masangwana.

For over a year, state capture revelations have
continuously shocked the nation with allegations of corruption and the buying
of undue influence over politicians and public officials by private businesses
and businesspeople. However, the recordal, preservation
and disclosure of information
on the private funding of political parties
and independent candidates could go a long way towards preventing such
influence — if done right.

The Promotion of Access to Information Act
(PAIA) amendment could make our political system more transparent; deterring
corruption. Currently, PAIA does not provide for information on the private
funding of political parties and independent candidates to be recorded,
preserved and disclosed. Due to this, in June 2018, the Constitutional Court
declared PAIA invalid. Before information is accessed, it must be recorded and
preserved.

On July 25, Parliament’s National Assembly
approved the Committee of Justice and Correctional Services’ request to amend
PAIA to fulfil the court’s order. Last month, the committee held public
hearings, where My Vote Counts (MVC) and other organisations madeoral
submissions
on the PAIA Amendment Bill.

READ | Inside the draft PAIA Bill: Records to be declared every quarter

Information of political party funding is
essential for citizens to effectively exercise their right to make political
choices. Unlike those who can afford to donate money, cars, expensive alcohol,
braai packs and other commodities in exchange for exclusive access to political
party and government officials, the average South African’s influence in
decision-making is limited to the elections. MVC had hoped the committee would
bear this fact at the centre of its considerations in terms of how the
Amendment Bill fulfils the right to access political party funding information.

This right would only be partially fulfilled if
political parties and independent candidates were only obligated to record,
preserve and disclose amounts above R100 000; Clause 52B of the Bill limits
recordal, preservation and disclosure to amounts exceeding R100 000. Committee
members from different parties expressed a united view that R100 000 is not
much.

Evidently, R100 000 – less than what most South
Africans make annually – is significant enough to buy influence over public
officials. Recently, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) effectively proved
that donations of less than R100 000 are of importance after revelations that
two of theirMPs
received money
from Cyril Ramaphosa. The two who received R40
000 and R80 000 each from Ramaphosa between 2017 and 2019, subsequently
resigned from Parliament and the EFF’s central command. One described non-disclosure
of money as “dishonourable” and “disingenuous”.

The African National Congress’s (ANC)
Progressive Business Forum (PBF) allows businesspeople access to ANC officials
and ministers with membership fees ranging from R5 500 to R60 000 per annum.
Democratic Alliance (DA) leader Mmusi Maimane was transported in a vehicle paid
for by disgraced Markus Jooste in 2016. The United Democratic Movement (UDM),
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and others have received donations of under R100
000 from entities and persons alleged to be corrupt.

The recordal and disclosure of donations to
political parties in excess of R100 000 in one financial year is provided for
under thePolitical
Party Funding Act
(PPFA). The Electoral Commission’s (IEC)
quarterly disclosures of funding declarations minimises any administrative
burden. The PAIA Amendment Bill should be complementary in allowing for
applications for declarations of donations under R100 000. 

The risks in not recording donations under R100
000, impair the need to detect and deter corruption. Donors could donate
amounts less than R100 000 under different names, which would not be recorded
but could accumulate to this threshold and even higher. They could also donate
R100 000 in one year, in portions over two financial years which would go
unrecorded; whereas a donor who donates the same amount in one financial year
would have to record and disclose.

We will achieve nothing by limiting PAIA to the
confines of the PPFA in its amendment process. The amendment seeks to promote
transparency and it would be a grave injustice to South Africans if we
continued to provide leeway for secrecy. Secrecy breeds corruption and as a
nation we should be outraged enough at this stage, to prevent it at all costs.

READ MVC
REPORT
:The
Private Funding of Political Parties: What Do We Know?

Political parties should therefore record and
disclose all donations on social media, their websites and hard copies made
available at their offices — internet access remains a privilege in South
Africa. Furthermore, MVC envisions that the accounting officers responsible for
the recordal and keeping of this information have it in their possession, to
disclose if and when requested to.

– Lelethu Masangwana writes on behalf of My Vote Counts.

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