With elections a hot topic of 2019 and everyone (hopefully) registered to vote and ready to make a democratic choice, it is exciting to see that President Cyril Ramaphosa has recently signed the Political Party Funding Bill into effect in January 2019. This will repeal the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act of 1997 and paves the way for an ever more transparent political landscape in South Africa.
Now, how does this affect the average citizen and what benefit do we gain from it? Well, political parties rely on funding in order to campaign for votes and pay their staff, and until this bill came into effect, funding was not properly regulated. This means that private funding to various political parties could be done anonymously and that political parties didn’t need to disclose who was funding or where their funds came from – a gateway for corruption. This made it difficult for voters to make an informed choice on the party of their choice because there wasn’t enough transparency about who they were being funded by privately.
Under this new law, parties will now be compelled to disclose when donations are made directly to them, and they will also have to disclose any private donations made to the electoral commission. The new law also puts an end to donations from foreign governments or agencies – this is huge for our democracy, as it puts about another barrier against foreign influence on our political process.
One of the key factors in the new legislation is the establishment of a multi-party democracy fund which will be run by the IEC (Electoral Commission of South Africa). Under this, donations can be spread evenly among parties in the parliament – a huge boost for smaller parties that struggle with funding. Gone are behemoth amounts going into the pockets of the biggest parties – because funds are currently allocated in relation to the number of seats a party holds in Parliament.
Although all the legislation will not be finalised in time for this year’s elections, as this will take another 6 months, it will form part of South Africa’s democracy going forward, allowing citizens to know exactly who is paying their political leaders, and why. No more shadowy deals and unfair distribution of funds. Another win for democracy in South Africa.
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