DA, ANC refuse to lift lid on budgets

The African National Congress and the Democratic Alliance remained unwilling to reveal the size of their election budgets on Tuesday.

ANC spokesperson Jessie Duarte and DA chief executive Ryan Coetzee would not put a price tag on their election campaigns, which saw political television advertisements airing for the first time.

They were speaking at a discussion on political parties’ media strategies in Johannesburg.

The Congress of the People said they would reveal the name’s of their funders at the party’s annual general meeting in nine months.

Party spokesperson JJ Tabane said funders were “scared” to make their generosity known, fearing reprisals from other parties.

“We have become such a patronage-based society ... the business people are saying we are not going to support Cope because we will be in trouble with Zille ... the reality is we are struggling with funding because our society is really held to hostage in some instances,” he said.

The Inkatha Freedom Party’s Narend Singh said that major corporations tended to fund the ruling party.

This damaged multiparty democracy, he charged, as smaller parties were not funded sufficiently, effecting their visibility.

Independent Democrats spokesperson Steven Otter said for parties who had “established” structures in communities, funding was not as central as exposure to the electorate.

However, he said there were a plethora of problems which arose when delving into party funding.

Otter, citing the arms deal and Oilgate scandal as examples, said the lack of regulation in South Africa was a breeding ground for corruption.

IEC funding, of which 90% was distributed according to party representation in Parliament and 10% distributed equally, was unfair, said Otter.

Leader of the United Democratic Movement, Bantu Holomisa said during the 2004 elections many businesses supported various parties openly. He encouraged them to do so now.

He advocated regulation, including disclosure to make election funding and political party funding more transparent.

Mostly, it was up to the funders whether they wanted to reveal their financial support for a particular party. They were hesitant to do so because they feared being sidelined when applying for government tenders.

Holomisa added that legislation regulating party funding should be designed to protect businesses from this.

While small parties were calling for legislation regulating funding, larger parties such as the ANC and the DA had frustrated these attempts, he charged.

DA spokesperson James Selfe said his party was “perfectly prepared” to have legislation passed, provided it was “applied uniformly”.

“Our view on the matter is we are perfectly prepared to look at legislation provided it is applied uniformly across the spectrum ... and that it leads to transparency.”

The ANC had resolved to regulate party funding at its Polokwane conference, but Holomisa said they were “dragging their feet” in implementing the resolution.

Duarte denied there was any resistance by the ANC: “We have funders who prefer not to be made known. We are not against informing the public.

“We would not receive funders that are negative,” she said.

“I want to state categorically that the ANC does not accept funds that have a condition to it, we reject that. There is no buy-in by making funding available,” she said.

Steven Friedman, an analyst from the University of Johannesburg’s Centre for the Study of Democracy, cautioned that many businesses provided funding hoped for “benefits”.

“People don’t give money because they want to promote multiparty democracy, they want benefits,” he said.

“There is nothing illegal about it in our system, about companies giving political donations in the hope that they will get influence.”

He said there was a need for regulating political party funding across the globe.

“The problem in South Africa is that it’s entirely unregulated.”

The “very least” required was disclosure, he said, adding that the “political will was not there”.

The loser in the equation was the voter, Friedman argued. - Sapa

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