/ 1 April 2021

‘All systems go’ for IEC’s Political Party Funding Act

Concerns: Paul Mashatile
Concerns: Paul Mashatile, Jessie Duarte, Cyril Ramaphosa and David Mabuza at an ANC rally. (Delwyn Verasamy)

The Political Party Funding Act (6 of 2018), which compels political parties to disclose their sources of funding for amounts above R100 000, has come into effect. The Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) said on Wednesday it is pleased it is “all systems go” for the Act to be operational from the beginning of April.

President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Act into law on 22 January 2019 and promulgated it in February this year.

The Act regulates the public and private funding of political parties with the aim being to establish transparency and trust between the public and political parties. 

“The implementation of the Act introduces a new era of transparency within South Africa’s electoral democracy, mandating all political parties to disclose donations above R100 000 to the electoral commission. The Act also sets restrictions on sources of funding for political parties,” the IEC said.

According to the Act, political parties may not accept donations above R15-million from a single donor. It also prohibits donations from foreign governments and their agencies, foreign persons and entities, organs of state and state-owned enterprises.

Parties are obliged to fully disclose, within three months of the financial year-end, all money received, including funds and membership fees, and how those funds were used. 

The regulations compel the IEC to make political party disclosures available to the public on a quarterly basis. In its pilot year, the IEC has six months to make disclosures publicly available. According to the IEC, it will publish at least one disclosure prior to this year’s local government elections expected to take place between August and November 2021.

All political parties and donors who make direct donations above R100 000 must sign up to the IEC’s online party funding system (OPFS) to make electronic disclosures to the IEC. 

“As part of the system of checks and balances to help ensure transparency, donors who make direct donations above R100 000 to political parties must also declare these to the Electoral Commission on the OPFS within 30 days,” said the IEC. 

The Act also put into effect the Represented Political Parties Fund (RPPF), enabling the IEC to annually disburse public money to political parties, and the Multiparty Democracy Fund (MPDF) to pay out private donations to political parties represented in national and provincial legislatures.

According to the IEC, the MPDF “presents a perfect opportunity for corporates, individuals and foundations to support multi-party democracy on a non-partisan basis. Within the parameters of applicable prescripts, contributors to the fund can request to do so anonymously should they prefer.”