ANC now mulling the regulation of internal party election funding



The ANC came out in defence of President Cyril Ramaphosa this week, after leaked emails showed that he knew more than he had initially let on about the fundraising activities of his 2017 campaign for the party’s presidency. 

In an interview with the Mail & Guardian on Wednesday, ANC deputy secretary general Jessie Duarte said the attack on Ramaphosa was an attack on the party and questioned the source of the emails which were reported about last week.

News24 reported on emails which were used by Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane to finalise her damning report into the R500 000 donation to Ramaphosa’s campaign by dodgy services company African Global Group, previously Bosasa.

Ramaphosa has been under fire from opposition parties, who questioned what those who donated some R400-million to his campaign wanted in return. However, at the time of his election, the country was in deep crisis amidst devastating allegations of state capture and the insidious role played by the controversial Gupta family in looting state owned entities and government departments.

There were mass protests calling for the removal of former president Jacob Zuma and business, civil society and labour had openly thrown their weight behind Ramaphosa, instead of his opponent Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, who at the time was seen as a Zuma proxy.

There is also no evidence that Ramaphosa bribed ANC delegates given his narrow win at Nasrec, which was due mainly to deputy president David Mabuza and ANC treasurer Paul Mashatile’s “unity” project, which culminated in a mixed slate winning the conference.

The emails had been widely circulated on social media but News24 had confirmed its authenticity. They reported that the emails had “undermined the defence” by Ramaphosa that he was kept at arms length from the funders.

This prompted both the CR17 campaign and the Presidency to respond to the allegations. ANC national executive committee (NEC) member Jackson Mthembu on Tuesday tweeted that the CR17 campaign would hold a press conference to respond to the allegations.

But a complication arose due to an NEC decision last year for all campaigns which were formed for particular candidates ahead of the party’s Nasrec conference to be disbanded. The ANC then stepped in. It had initially hoped to discuss the matter among its top six officials, which includes Ramaphosa, but due to public pressure, responded via a statement.

In it, the party notes the emails with “grave concern”. Duarte in an interview with the M&G to elaborate on the statement said that the party did not have a policy to regulate campaigns by individuals for posts within the party. The party’s internal electoral process has been a concern for the party with secretariat reports at successive conferences acknowledging the negative practices such as vote buying, gatekeeping and ghost branches.

Duarte said the latest developments around Ramaphosa campaign has strengthened the ANC’s resolve to put in place policies to regulate campaigns and funding for party election campaigns at all levels.

She said would-be leaders should be in a position to be able to visit branches and talk to them directly without having to raise money to do so. A key concern for the ANC was that many of its members were poor and could easily be bought.

“At the same time we want to be clear that contestation is healthy and we don’t want to undermine that,” she said.

She said the regulation was a “modernisation mechanism” but would also protect the right of the ANC and the branches to choose their leaders without inducements.

Duarte also raised concern about where the emails came from. She said the ANC was not aware of the source of the emails, but it was worried about the agenda of those circulating them. She said the ANC was in the past faced with “hoax emails” and a commission of inquiry was set up to probe where they came from. 

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Natasha Marrian
Natasha Marrian
Marrian has built a reputation as an astute political journalist, investigative reporter and commentator. Until recently she led the political team at Business Day where she also produced a widely read column that provided insight into the political spectacle of the week.

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