Letters to the Editor: August 10 to 16

Sign party fund Bill, Cyril

Dear President Cyril Ramaphosa,

We write this open letter to you as civil society organisations working in the interest of upholding democracy and improving our political system through greater transparency.

The gap in political party financial disclosure and monitoring regulation in South Africa’s political system is a danger to the democratic stability of our political and electoral systems. 

This gap undermines the legitimacy of our electoral system. In the absence of party funding transparency regulation, the public is robbed of and denied their constitutional right to be informed of the nature of relationships between political parties and their private funders.

We acknowledge that Parliament took it upon itself to formulate the Political Party Funding Bill and we write this letter particularly in relation to your role on this Bill to pass the final stage and for it to be formally enacted. Although the Bill is long overdue, the speed with which it was managed through the parliamentary process is commendable. Our understanding is that Parliament considered this Bill to be an urgent matter. After being adopted by the National Assembly on March 27 and by the National Council of Provinces on June 28, it is now up to you to sign the Bill so that it can become an Act. Its implementation is urgent and necessary.

Civil society organisations have long campaigned for Parliament to regulate private political party funding and to make transparency a reality. On June 21, in the Constitutional Court matter MVC vsthe Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, the court declared that information on political parties’ private donations is essential for the effective exercise of the right to vote. This ground-breaking judgment strengthens South Africa’s democracy by validating the right to vote as a “rich” right that is only fully realised if the electorate also has access to the information that they need in order to make an informed vote.

Political parties, and the ANC in particular, committed to initiating a legislative process that would address this lack of regulation during the Institute for Democratic Alternative in South Africacase in the Western Cape High Court in 2005. It is now more than 13 years since that commitment was made and your signature on the Political Party Funding Bill is all that stands in the way of this positive and systemic reform to our political system. This reform improves not only the actions and policies of our political parties, but also the rights of voters and the public.

The public wants to be sure that there is no undue influence on our political parties in the form of donations. The enactment of this Bill is required if we are to protect and maintain trust in our political parties and our electoral system. We request that you use the agency of your office to bring the legislative process to a close so that the implementation on this important matter can begin.

With the next national and provincial elections due to be held within 90 days of May 8 next year (potentially less than 12 months away) we urge you to expedite the signing of this Bill so that it may be brought into effect as soon as possible. This will enable the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, the body mandated with managing the implementation of the legislation, to operationalise the key aspects of the Bill relating to the transparency and regulation of private funding to political parties. This is particularly critical in the run-up to an election in which party expenditure is at its peak.

On behalf of the organisations listed below, we ask that you sign this Bill without delay and affirm our constitutional rights to access to information, to make political choices and to participate fully in elections. — My Vote Counts; amaBhungane; Dullah Omar Institute, University of the Western Cape; Open Democracy Advice Centre; Corruption Watch and Right 2 Know, South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef)

Government, account to taxpayers

Every day our government spends millions of taxpayer funds yet we have no idea on what or how. Let’s bring politicians up to speed with the rest of the world and become transparent.

Other governments are implementing transparency portalsthrough which citizens can see how their money is being spent.

Because the public will know how their money is being spent, governments will be forced to be accountable. Inefficient projects that cannot withstand such scrutiny could be cancelled. It would be more difficult to justify fraud and spending sprees once such expenditure is public knowledge.

We hear it all the time from politicians that they are going to stop the “waste, fraud and abuse” in government.

According to Transparency International’s recent Corruption Perceptions Index, South Africa is ranked 67 out of 168 countries.South Africa scored 44 on a scale on which public sector corruption is viewed as 0 (highly corrupt) to 100 (very clean).

The main promise this government made to the people is catching thieves — years have gone by but there is only talk about investigations by commissions.

The only people who oppose transparency portals are those who have something to hide. —S Lakhi, Mooi River

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