A group of civil society activists will launch a court bid to expose the secret funding of political parties. The court application has been launched by My Vote Counts (MVC) a non-profit company campaigning to improve the accountability, transparency and inclusiveness of elections, and political groups in South Africa. This comes ahead of the upcoming local government elections on August 3rd.
The campaign was born in 2012 through an initiative of Ndifuna Ukwazi, a Cape Town-based NGO that promotes social justice issues.
The organisation believes there needs to be a law in place that requires political parties to provide regular and proactive reports to the public on who finances them. Political parties are urged to exercise the transparency that they preach.
The initiative was driven by the 2005 IDASA judgment where political parties such as the ANC admitted that there needs to be transparency on the issue of political funding. However, the party was very stagnant in proposing a policy through Parliament. Despite the MVC approaching Parliament in 2012 and 2013, judgement was only passed after approaching the Constitutional court last year.
“It’s been a very long process, there were two judgements, a majority and minority, and the minority is very supportive of what MVC is trying to do”, said Janine Ogle, the National co-ordinator for MVC.
The MVC’s campaign follows the Concourt’s dismissal of their application to impose an obligation on Parliament to enact legislation to regulate private political party funding. The Concourt ruled that MVC should employ the Public Access to Information Act (PAIA) to access the information that it seeks and if denied access, it should challenge the constitutionality of PAIA.
The MVC had decided to act upon the ruling of the court and associated formal processes had resulted in campaign delays. The campaign is supported by Right To Know and other organizations such as Center for Environmental Rights (CER), Corruption Watch, Open Democracy Advice Center (ODAC), and Public Service Accountability Monitor (PSAM) which is a law clinic based at Rhodes University.
“Without knowing the financial backers of all major political parties, voters are kept in the dark about potential conflicts of interest and have no way of knowing who may be influencing the policies and activities of these parties. The vast majority of funding for political parties comes from private sources, and currently not a single political party is willing to say who its funders are. In the current climate, corporations, wealthy individuals and even foreign governments can buy influence and favours from political parties across the aisles,” said Right To Know in a statement.
“This lack of transparency must be challenged. Such secrecy not only fosters corruption and various forms of state capture, but also undermines democracy in other ways.”
Ogle stated that the organization hopes to achieve political transparency by the next election.
“If we had legislation in the year before (elections) we could get information, so that in the year 2019 when voters vote, they already know where political party gets their money from.”
The MVC foundation receives funding from the Open Society Initiative of South Africa and the Claude Leon Foundation. The organization is very transparent with regards to the sources of their funds in terms of the amount received, and the utilization of the funds. More information on this can be found on: http://www.myvotecounts.org.za/funding/.