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ANC warns against 'over-regulation' of political party funding

02 August 2019 - 19:30 By Andisiwe Makinana
The ANC has warned the Electoral Commission not to over-regulate political party funding, saying it may discourage private donations.
The ANC has warned the Electoral Commission not to over-regulate political party funding, saying it may discourage private donations.

The ANC has warned the Electoral Commission not to over-regulate political party funding as it may discourage private donations - a move that would burden the public purse.

Party head honchos were making a submission on the IEC's draft regulations for the Political Party Funding Act, a law which President Cyril Ramaphosa assented to in January . Among its key objectives, the act seeks to provide for and regulate the public and private funding of political parties and to regulate disclosure of donations received.

The ANC representatives specifically raised an issue with the regulation of small donations and donations in kind, saying the ANC relied on such in-kind donations for various activities.

ANC general manager Febe Potgieter-Gqubule said political parties relied overwhelmingly on volunteers to raise funds and in the ANC, this happened from branch level to regional, provincial and national levels.

“Much of the funding is small donations made by members or supporters, or in kind, for example petrol or sandwiches for election day workers,” said Potgieter-Gqubule.

“There are literally hundreds of thousands of in-kind and nominal cash donations and the majority of them are not captured as individual donations in a national accounting system,” she added.

Potgieter-Gqubule explained that ANC branches raise funds for their own needs and have around 4,700 branch bank accounts for the funding they raise. Some branches raise only a few hundred rand, and more successful ones a few thousand rand per year.

“It was not the intention of the parties in parliament that these kinds of donations should be regulated, but that big donors and foreign donors should be disclosed and limited to curtail undue influence.

“We have staff and offices at regional, provincial and national level. All have bank accounts that may get bigger donations and can be more easily linked to the national account as they are staffed and supported by national office,” said Potgieter-Gqubule.

She said funds raised could be captured and aggregated nationally to see if any large donors were approaching the R100,000 disclosure threshold. Doing this for all branches was extremely onerous for parties and the IEC, she warned.

The ANC was at pains to register its support for the IEC to successfully implement the act and regulations at the earliest possible time, but warned that to successfully implement the draft regulations the IEC has to address issues of its own and political parties' capacities, the practicality of systems and requirements and the need for education and training for parties, the public and donors.

The act establishes a Multi-party Democracy Fund into which donors can make certain donations instead of donating directly to political parties. The fund will be administered by the commission.

Potgieter-Gqubule noted that the fund was meant to deal with donors who wanted to be neutral or wished to remain anonymous but the regulations as they stood and proposed amendments to the Promotion of Access to Information Act might defeat this intention.

She revealed that donors were already nervous about falling foul of the act adding that it had been difficult for all parties to raise money in the last elections.

She repeatedly warned that if the act and regulations limited funding sources, only the fiscus would be able to fill the gap.

The ANC proposed that the multi-party democracy fund should be set up to allow tax breaks and that the issue of anonymity should not be overly complex to implement.

It said while parties should disclose all donations above R100,000, they should not be expected to report and nationally aggregate small donations in cash or in kind from branch level.

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