March 20, 2019

Valli Moosa in Parliament for party funding hearing

This might well be the last lap of Valli Moosa’s 20-year campaign to see legislative controls extended to cover private political party funding.

The passing of the Public Funding of Represented Parties Act of 1997 launched the much-disputed controversy over the regulation of party political funding ‑ and effectively marked the start of Valli Moosa’s personal drive to ensure that South Africa’s democracy was protected by the promulgation of regulations that track and control private donations to political parties.

Moosa was Minister of Provincial and Constitutional Affairs when the 1997 Act was passed, and to this day he has wanted to see the resolution of what he considers a weakness in South Africa’s constitutional democracy.

He told Notes from the House that “our Constitution creates a great democracy but the lack of any regulation on party funding is a weak link in the chain”.

Secrecy opens up space for corrupt relationships between business interests and political parties.

Moosa was in the Old Assembly Chamber of Parliament on Wednesday when the ANC presented its submission to the Ad Hoc Committee on the Funding of Political Parties, which is currently hearing representations from civil society organisation, parties and interested individuals who were invited to comment on the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act, No. 103 of 1997.

The mandate of the long-awaited Committee, which is chaired by Vincent Smith, is to probe public funding of parties and make recommendations on whether to change or introduce new funding legislation to regulate private funding.

Moosa spoke to Notes from the House not as a member of the ANC NEC or one of its delegation at the Committee hearing, but as an individual who for 20 years has nursed a passion to see this lacuna in the law closed once and for all.

It is something he has campaigned for ever since the 1997 Act first granted parties funding from the public purse. The Act, which was passed during his term as Minister, introduced what became known as the 90-10 rule according to which 90% of the state’s funding is allocated proportionately, that is determined by the percentage of votes received by individual parties in elections, and 10% is distributed equitably between parties represented in Parliament.

The funding has always been intended for the maintenance of political parties, mostly between elections, and covers constituencies, political party work and leadership support. It is distributed through the party’s caucus.

This financial year’s budget cuts has meant parties have had to rely more than ever on private funding, and it is seen by many as a political anomaly that this has never been regulated in South Africa before, although it has been repeatedly raised as a matter that is crucial for the effective functioning of our multi-party Parliament.

Moosa said the reason this worried him is that “voters need to know who pays the bills for political parties so that they can exercise an informed choice”. He warned: “Secrecy opens up space for corrupt relationships between business interests and political parties.”

He added, “in a proper democracy, measures should be in place to prevent the possibility of political parties becoming the private property of some or other funder.”

Moosa pointed out that South Africa is one of the few countries in the world that conducts elections and party affairs without regulating party funding donations from the public, which could include international bodies or large corporate donors.

“I am very pleased that the matter is being attended to by Parliament with the seriousness that it is,” Moosa said. “I intend keeping an eagle eye on the process.

“I have been promoting the need for party funding transparency for more than two decades, so I am over the moon that it is finally gaining some traction.

“Frankly, all South Africans should keep an eye on a matter that is so vital to our democracy,” he said.

Moira Levy

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  • Author: Moira Levy
Last modified on Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:16

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Notes from the House is an independent weekly email newsletter that tracks and monitors Parliament in its role of holding government to account and passing legislation to improve people’s lives. It aims to bring you the news from Parliament that you don’t get elsewhere. Published by Moira Levy with the support of the Claude Leon Foundation.

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