Political parties must disclose their private funders‚ court rules

27 September 2017 - 13:05 By Nomahlubi Jordaan
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/iStockphoto

Political parties and independent candidates should disclose their private funding‚ the Western Cape High Court has ruled.

In her judgment on Wednesday‚ Judge Yasmin Meer declared that information about the private funding of political parties and independent ward candidates is reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote in elections and to make political choices.

She also declared that the Promotion of Access to Information Act‚ 2 of 2000 (“PAIA”) is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid “insofar as it does not allow for the recordal and disclosure of private funding information”.

“The declaration of invalidity is suspended for 18 months in order to allow Parliament to remedy the defects in PAIA and to allow for the recordal and disclosure of private funding of political parties and independent candidates‚” Meer ruled.

She directed that the order be referred to the Constitutional Court for confirmation within 15 days.

Meer made the ruling in an application by My Vote Counts‚ which had asked the court to declare that information on private political party funding should be made public.

In its application‚ My Vote Counts also challenged the constitutional validity of PAIA.

The application was opposed by the DA and the Minister of Justice and Correctional Services.

The DA argued that the application was “defective as My Vote Counts had failed to join the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)‚ whose core responsibilities‚ the party submitted‚ include overseeing political parties‚ promoting research into electoral matters‚ reviewing electoral legislation and promoting voter education.

My Vote Counts‚ however argued that the IEC does not have a direct and substantial interest in the relief the organisation sought‚ which was directed against the unconstitutionality of PAIA in addressing the Section 32 right of access to information‚ read with sections 19‚ 7(2) and 1(d) of the Constitution.

Civil society organisations have long called for Parliament to enact legislation regulating party funding‚ in line with AU‚ UN and other anti-corruption codes signed by the country.

Groups such as My Vote Counts have in the past instituted unsuccessful court bids to compel political parties to disclose the identities of private donors.

In June‚ the National Assembly agreed to establish an ad hoc committee to look into party funding.

After receiving submissions‚ the committee — led by ANC MP Vincent Smith — moved quickly to finalise the draft bill.

All written comments on the draft bill should be submitted by no later than October 16‚ the committee said. After considering comments on the draft bill it expects to conclude the process by the end of the year.