Greyling's Legislative Proposal to regulate private funding of political parties

Private Members' Legislative Proposals and Special Petitions

05 August 2010
Chairperson: Mr S Thobejane (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The Chairperson again expressed his disappointment at the lack of quorum, but accepted that the problem arose because all Committee Members also served on other committees. Members agreed that all parties should be asked to re-check the availability of their Members on this Committee. It might be preferable to reduce the number of Members, thus also reducing the quorum, to ensure that the Committee could be more effective.

Hon L Greyling tabled and presented a Proposal to regulate private funding of political parties. However, he stressed that he would not like this to be regarded as “his” proposal but believed that the matter should be dealt with through a process driven by all political parties, wanting to act in the public interest.  He noted that the private funding of political parties had come starkly into focus over the last few months. Senior members of the ANC, as well as the public, had called for legislation to regulate this area of political activity. The lack of regulations governing the private funding of political parties was a major gap in the democratic framework. Most mature democracies worldwide regulated private funding of political parties. There were four broad issues. Mr Greyling recommended that private donations to political parties over a certain figure should be disclosed.  and was one that needed to be urgently rectified. Mature democracies around the world had instituted some form of regulation governing the private funding of political parties and South Africa urgently needed to enact similar legislation. He noted that in 2004 the Institute for Democracy in South Africa had applied to Court for an order that political parties should disclose their funding, and although the Court did not rule in IDASA’s favour, because it believed that it was Parliament, and not the Court, that should regulate the matter, it had remarked that it was desirable for there to be some regulation. The ANC, at that time, undertook to introduce legislation, but this had never been done. He suggested that several scandals since 1994 were linked to lack of such regulations, and it was in the public interest that the matter be regulated.

Mr Greyling suggested that there were four aspects. He proposed that there should be disclosure of all private donations over a certain defined figure. South Africa should consider placing a ban on foreign donations. There should be restriction on election expenditure, as he considered not only that this would level the electoral playing field but that it was immoral to spend so much on electoral campaigning when other dire needs took priority. Finally, political parties should be banned from doing business with the State.

Members asked that the current position in regard to foreign donations must be clarified. An ANC Member indicated that nothing prevented political parties from already disclosing their donations, but Mr Greyling stressed that this was not about retrospective issues, but the need to have regulations enforcing compliance.
Members agreed on the need for further research, noted Mr Greyling’s request that all political parties should voluntarily seize the issue, and asked how it was proposed that the regulations be enforced, and what would be the financial implications. Members suggested that the way in which parties spent their money was perhaps even more important than the source of the funding, and noted that parties were already obliged to submit financial statements to Parliament. Members asked if it was proposed that the ban on political parties doing business with the State would be retrospective. The Committee would call for comment from other stakeholders before debating the merits of the proposal.

Meeting report

Minutes for this committee meeting are not yet available.

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