Party funding: The mud starts flying

The revelation that the official opposition Democratic Alliance allegedly received a donation from slain businessman Brett Kebble points to the need for serious reform in the party political funding regime in South Africa, says Independent Democrats (ID) MP Lance Greyling.

He was reacting to a Sunday Times report that the DA had received R2-million from Kebble. But Business Day reported the DA’s James Selfe as saying that the party received R125 000 in January 2001, a further R125 000 in December 2001 and R250 000 in February 2004.

Greyling said it was “intriguing” that the DA had managed to change its mind about the funding within hours—from when Selfe, the party’s chair of the federal council, said that he was “not aware” of funding, as reported in the Sunday Times, to now being aware of some funding amounting to R500 000.

It is also ironic that Western Cape provincial legislature member Robin Carlisle had recently called for a judicial commission of inquiry into funding from Kebble to the African National Congress, noted Greyling.

Greyling said on Monday: “It is now clear why the DA has played an obstructionist role when it comes to initiatives attempting to reform the party political funding regime in South Africa.

 

“It is common knowledge that Kebble also funded the ANC. The ID wants proper regulations when it comes to party political funding. There have been a number of scandals and allegations surrounding political party donations in South Africa over the last few years, which points to the dire need for us to introduce transparency and accountability.

“I call on the DA and the ANC to now fully participate in the multiparty forum that is looking into this issue. Both of these parties have been conspicuous in their absence and should now use this opportunity to engage with the Institute for Democracy in South Africa (Idasa)-facilitated forum.

“The ID believes we must all do our part as political parties to avoid the situation arising in South Africa where corporations and individuals are able to buy political influence through party donations.”

Business Day reported that forensic auditors uncovered records of R25-million listed as having been paid to the ANC by Kebble and companies linked to him. The ANC denied that it received the money and denied being questioned about the funds.

The ID’s Patricia de Lille told the Mail & Guardian Online on Monday that the DA’s late admission that they received money from Kebble is “a matter of principle that reflects on the DA as to why a person in [Selfe’s] capacity did not know about it”.

“There is a need for South Africans to protect our democracy from democracy privatisation,” she added

De Lille said that all donations should be placed in one big fund and shared by all parties. “[The ANC and the DA] don’t want to share what they receive from big businesses.”

She said that it is one of the only things the two parties actually agree on.

But Selfe said that until the ANC discloses from where it receives its funding, the DA will not disclose its, and the DA and ANC do not agree on the subject.

“All donations are confidential. There needs to be compelling circumstances that would incline us to make it public,” said Selfe.

When comparing the amount of money given by Kebble to the ANC and to the DA, it is like “a tadpole compared with a great white shark”, according to Selfe.

Kebble was shot dead while driving his car in Johannesburg in September last year. In June, the Cape High Court ordered the final sequestration of the late businessman’s estate. Creditors argued the estate was insolvent, with liabilities exceeding assets by at least R446-million.

The Cape High Court on April 20 last year gave judgement dismissing an application by Idasa to access records of private donations made to the four biggest political parties in South Africa—the ANC, the DA, the Inkatha Freedom Party and the New National Party—under the Promotion of Access to Information Act.

While dismissing the application the court also held that the judgement did not mean “that political parties should not, as a matter of principle, be compelled to disclose details of private donations made to their coffers.” The court was certain that private donations ought to be regulated by way of specific legislation.

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