ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu wants public funding of political parties increased‚ saying the R150 million to be shared proportionally among twelve parties represented in parliament in this financial year is a “pittance”.
Mthembu has also proposed that parliament should craft a piece of law to ensure transparency and public accountability in the private funding of parties.
His proposal marks a serious departure from the ANC’s previous stance on the matter‚ in which his predecessor Stone Sizani and parliament successfully challenged an application in the Constitutional Court in 2015 that sought to force parties to disclose their private donors.
The ANC’s parliamentary boss said he would soon be tabling a motion in the National Assembly‚ calling for the establishment of a multi-party ad hoc committee to develop legislation and policies on increased public funding of political parties and regulations to allow public scrutiny of private donations.
Mthembu said his proposal stemmed from ANC national conference resolutions from Polokwane in 2007 and Magaung in 2012‚ which up to now have not been acted upon.
He said he wanted his proposed ad hoc committee to conclude its work by December this year.
“We are late‚ but better late than never‚” he said in response to the timing of his proposal.
The issue of private political funding has been on the agenda for years‚ with pressure groups arguing that secret donations to parties were a danger to democracy as they could allow undue influence on the affairs of political parties.
The critics have also argued that anonymous party funding also created space for corruption to thrive‚ especially among political formations in charge of various spheres of government.
Mthembu said the ad hoc committee would also be free to decide if anonymous funding should be completely banned or be regulated‚ depending on the level of “adequate public funding” it was likely to agree on.
“Our democracy will not advance without being funded adequately from the public purse‚ and indeed R150 million is a pittance‚” said Mthembu.
“I would not want to go into the finances of the ANC because I’m not the Treasurer-General‚ but as the person who is responsible for communication‚ just one line item in the budget of elections‚ was communication…we had to spend more than R200 million just in one line item‚ not to mention others…such as issues of staffing‚ taking care of buildings‚ elections years‚ travels by party officials‚ accommodation in hotels.”
Mthembu said once sufficient public funding of parties was secured‚ parties would be obliged to declare their funds from private donors.
“The issue is not only increasing public funding. The issue is throwing in transparency on where we get any additional funding‚ ensuring that when’s there’s such adequate funding then the responsibility on parties is to declare any other additional funds that they might get from private (individuals or companies)‚ whether those private entities are outside or inside the country‚ they must be declared.”
Mthembu said he was confident other parties would support his proposal after presenting it on Wednesday at a closed meeting with chiefs whip from the opposition.
Judith February of the Institute of Security Studies‚ who has been part of the open party funding lobby for the last twelve years‚ said Mthembu’s proposal was a step in the right direction.
“in 2005 idasa brought the first court case suing the ANC and other major political parties to reveal their sources of funding. The case was lost but the point made. Since then we have seen the toxic impact of money on the political process which has also taken new and more dangerous and brazen forms such as state capture.
“This is a step in the right direction and we trust that any ad hoc committee will open a broad consultative process on any legislation which is forthcoming. Jackson Mthembu is suggesting the right path and one hopes he gets the full support of the ANC caucus to move things forward‚” February said.