Using taxpayer cash to electioneer better than fuelling Zuptoid gravy train

At first blush, ANC Chief Whip Jackson Mthembu’s appeal for more taxpayers’ money to be split among parties for electioneering seems a bit rich. But then you read that he’s also calling for greater transparency on who funds each and every party and motivating the cash appeal by saying it will benefit democracy. Pause for thought. If we can see who is bankrolling whom, that will immeasurably improve democracy. It can be woven back into the electioneering machine, ammunition or whichever party and a legitimate vote-getter. Exposing nefarious funders and their cash piles mean they can be dealt with as society and law see fit. Using taxpayers’ money instead to promote democracy seems a much fairer and more legitimate approach. Certainly, a hell of a lot better than using billions in taxpayers’ money to set up a fleet of gravy trains. In fact, the private funding transparency may well flush some of them into the open. There’s a bigger chance of Mthembu being proved right on this one than there is of him shooting down any hope of a No Confidence debate succeeding, even if it is secret. Hope may spring eternal, but money buys the goods. – Chris Bateman

Cape Town – The African National Congress wants to increase public funding for political parties, and also greater transparency on the funding parties receive from private donors.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu on Thursday announced that the party will propose an ad hoc committee of Parliament to deal with this matter.

ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu

He said the effective functioning of political parties was fundamental to the promotion of constitutional democracy.

“Political parties require adequate funding in order to perform their functions and enhance democracy, and the manner and transparency of such funding are paramount in the context of building public confidence in our political system,” Mthembu said.

He described the R150m that is proportionally shared among the parties represented in Parliament as a “pittance”.

“Democracy is quite an expensive project.”

He said this lead to an extensive reliance on private donations, which fuelled the perception that anonymous donations from business interests were a means to subvert democratic processes by influencing the awarding of contracts, and framing policy in a way which advanced private interests, thereby diluting citizens’ voices and undermining the Constitution.

“Perceptions of undue influence and corruption are further fuelled by the absence of financial transparency amongst political parties. Currently, political parties are not required to disclose or report publicly on either the sources of their finances or the use to which funds are put,” Mthembu said.

“There are people in this world that got money like dust, and they will not fund you for the priorities of this country.”

According to Mthembu, disclosure rules and the exclusion of certain categories of donors could negate this perception.

‘Influenced by civil society’

He said the ANC had accepted a resolution to these ends at its 2007 conference in Polokwane, which was reiterated at the following conference in Mangaung in 2012, but as of yet, nothing had been done about this.

He said these plans also came about after civil society raised concerns.

“We are influenced by civil society, that said to us: ‘ANC, are you against transparency?,'” said Mthembu.

He said the ad hoc committee would be established to investigate the funding of political parties, with a view to introducing amending legislation if necessary.

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It would consider the model of public funding for political parties, as well as the need for, and possible means of, regulating private funding of political parties in all its forms.

“We would not be speaking about this if we thought there were no prospects of success.”

He raised the matter in the chief whips forum, representing all parties in Parliament, and the ANC would make a full presentation to this forum.

The next step is to refer the matter to Parliament’s programming committee, which will put it on the National Assembly’s programme.

He hopes that the committee will finish its work by December.