Political parties' private funding case to be heard in court

14 August 2017 - 15:09 By Ernest Mabuza
In preparation for the case‚ MVC sent PAIA requests to 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly asking them to disclose their source of funding.
In preparation for the case‚ MVC sent PAIA requests to 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly asking them to disclose their source of funding.
Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

My Vote Counts (MVC) is challenging the constitutionality of a law which fails to allow access to information on the private funding of political parties.

The matter will be heard in the high court in Cape Town on Tuesday and Wednesday.

The organisation had in 2015 asked the Constitutional Court to compel Parliament to enact legislation obliging political parties to disclose their sources of private political funding.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the application.

But a minority judgment in the Constitutional Court held that MVC should have mounted a challenge to the constitutionality of the Promotion of Access to Information Act for failing to allow access to information on the funding of political parties‚ in the high court.

In preparation for the case‚ MVC sent PAIA requests to 14 political parties represented in the National Assembly asking them to disclose their source of funding.

None of the parties have agreed to provide the information‚ prompting MVC to go to court.

The Democratic Alliance is opposing the application.

Its federal executive chairman James Selfe said the DA was resistant to the public disclosure of information regarding the details of its private donors.

He said the reasons for this were both principled and practical.

On a principled level‚ Selfe said MVC failed to give any attention to the rights of donors to keep their political allegiances secret‚ their privacy and their rights to associate with a political party of their choice without interference.

Selfe said many donors insist their donations remain anonymous because – rightly or wrongly – it could harm their business interests if it was found they supported an opposition party like the DA.

“Without this sort of funding‚ a party like the DA would not be able to compete in elections.”

Selfe said a party like the African National Congress‚ which controls the national government‚ eight provincial administrations and many municipalities‚ would not be similarly compromised.

The Minister of Justice is also opposing the application.

The minister said it was not necessary‚ in order to exercise the right to vote‚ for a citizen to access information on the private funding of political parties.

“In other words‚ the proper and lawful exercise of the right to vote does not require the disclosure of information on private funding of political parties‚” Kalayvani Pillay‚ the department’s deputy director-general: legislative development‚ said in an affidavit.

On Tuesday MVC will make submissions to the ad hoc committee on review of public funding of political parties. The committee was established after a resolution by parliamentarians on a possible amendment to legislation.

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