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27 Sep 2017 17:17
James Selfe and Mmusi Maimane in Parliament. (David Harrison, M&G)
DA federal council chairperson James Selfe says the party “probably won’t” appeal the Western Cape High Court’s ruling that political parties should disclose private funding information.
Judge Yasmin Meer on Wednesday ruled that information about private funding was “reasonably required” for the effective exercise of the right to vote and to make political choices.
Parliament has 18 months to amend the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) so that political parties can disclose their sources of private funding.
Selfe told News24 on Wednesday that an appeal from the DA, the only party to oppose the application by non-profit organisation My Vote Counts, was unlikely.
“The biggest thing that remains unanswered is whether the legislation that is currently before the ad hoc committee on party funding subsumes the ruling to amend PAIA.
“It does seem to me that that [the ad hoc committee legislation] will fulfil the requirements of the court judgment… It seems the proposed bill will achieve just that.”
The ad hoc committee gazetted a draft bill last week to regulate the disclosure of party funding. It will receive public input and be finalised by November.
Selfe said it was likely that the new legislation would be more thorough than an amendment of PAIA, in any case.
“This is probably going to be the first time ever that Parliament is going to meet a deadline laid down by the court,” he joked.
My Vote CountsWhen it came to the merits of the case, Selfe said the party believed that full disclosure was not necessarily the best way forward for democracy.
“While we are very alive to the fact that there could be pernicious influence of some big donors, it is also the case that if you demand disclosure down to the last R10, you do run the risk that you could act against the democratic interest, when it comes to strengthening the opposition in South Africa.”
Parliament’s legislation, therefore, would determine the threshold and the manner in which disclosure of private funding was necessary.
My Vote Counts had also argued for a “continuous and systematic” method in which parties disclose the information.
Meer, though, said the courts could not dictate the manner in which Parliament ordered parties to disclose their information, as such an order would infringe on the separation of powers.
The request for mere disclosure, however, could be granted, through an amendment of the PAIA.
The ruling also applies to independent ward candidates in local elections.
The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and the DA were ordered to pay the costs of the application.
Other respondents included President Jacob Zuma, the Minister of Home Affairs, the African National Congress, all 12 opposition parties and the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC).
The ruling will be sent to the Constitutional Court within 15 days of the judgment for confirmation.
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