The R500 000 donation President Cyril Ramaphosa received from scandal-ridden multi-services company Bosasa for his campaign to become ANC president, has put the issue of donations to politicians in the spotlight. But proposed legislation on political funding would not have an impact in this instance, had it been enacted.
The Party Funding Bill, which has been passed by Parliament and is awaiting Ramaphosa’s signature before it is enacted, is viewed as a step that will improve transparency in the murky world of party funding. The donation in question would not have been an offence if the Bill was in effect.
Section 10 of the Party Funding Bill states that “no person or entity may deliver a donation to a member of a political party other than for party political purposes” and a member of a political party may only receive such a donation “on behalf of the party”.
Ramaphosa’s team indicated in a statement on Saturday that he was not involved in fundraising efforts. They said he also didn’t have a record of donors, although he was asked on occasion to attend dinners with potential donors.
The campaign team added: “At no point were any funds transferred to the Cyril Ramaphosa Foundation, his relations or to President Ramaphosa himself.”
This, after Ramaphosa on Friday backtracked on a response he gave before the National Assembly 10 days ago over a R500 000 payment from Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson, allegedly for the benefit of his son, Andile.
The payment in question was made to a trust account of the CR17 campaign and not to Ramaphosa himself, and therefore it wouldn’t have been in contravention of the Party Funding Bill had it been enacted.
The Bill is entirely quiet on payments for internal leadership campaigns, but according to Janine Ogle, national co-ordinator of the organisation My Vote Counts, this type of payment holds the same dangers in terms of transparency and accountability.
“The danger of secret party funding is not different to the dangers of payments to leaders of political parties,” Ogle said.
She said there was no way of knowing if the donors would have influence over the political leader.
“The danger is the same,” she said.
Democratic Alliance leader Mmusi Maimane has since asked Ramaphosa to institute an independent inquiry to determine the full extent of Bosasa’s corrupt influence on the government, all payments made by Bosasa to politicians or their families, trusts or companies, and the full involvement of the president and his family to this scandal.
Ogle would like to see a broader investigation not only determining who funded Ramaphosa, but also his challengers to the ANC crown and the contenders in the DA’s and other party’s leadership battles.
She said people were correctly concerned about the payment.
“If there is a gap in our legislation, it should be addressed.”
My Vote Counts and other civil society organisations have been putting pressure on Ramaphosa to enact the Bill.
Ogle said they wrote to the Presidency on Monday to ask when the Bill would be signed into law and set a deadline of November 28. The Bill has to be enacted at least six months before an election to be in effect for that election.
Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Khusela Diko couldn’t be reached to confirm that the Bill had not been signed, and if so, whether it would be done before the end of the month.
In 2016, Maimane landed in hot water for failing to declare donations he received for his 2015 DA leadership campaign in Parliament’s register of members’ interests.
The EFF is the only party in Parliament which does not support the Bill and threatened court action should it be enacted. It happens to be Section 10 of the Bill – that members of parties may not receive donations – that irks them.
In terms of the Bill, a donation of less than R100 000 doesn’t need to be declared and there is a cap of R15-million that one person can donate to a party per year.
The Bill also states that a party may not accept a donation “that it knows or ought reasonably to have known, or suspected, originates from the proceeds of crime and must report that knowledge or suspicion to the [Electoral] Commission”. — News24