Constitutional Court to confirm judgment on funding of political parties

Constitutional Court to confirm judgment on funding of political parties
Source: Businesslive.co.za
Date: 14-03-2018 Time: 02:03:11:pm

Information about the private funding of political parties and independent candidates is reasonably required to exercise an "informed" vote at the ballot box, lobby group My Vote Counts says.

On Tuesday, My Vote Counts is due to appear before the Constitutional Court for the confirmation hearing of the High Court in Cape Town judgment on the constitutionality of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (Paia) as it pertains to access to information about the private funding of political parties and independent candidates in our electoral system.

Late in 2017, the High Court ordered Parliament to amend Paia to allow for the disclosure of private political party funding information.

However, because the High Court order concerns the constitutional validity of an act of Parliament, the order has no force until it has been confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

The justice minister is the only opposing party at Tuesday’s hearing.

"This litigation process aims to reform our political system by making it more transparent to the South African public, therefore allowing the public to hold political representatives and political organisations more accountable, not only on election day but also in between elections.

"This judgment, once confirmed, will provide a necessary change to South African politics, where political parties will no longer operate in secret and allow for greater understanding of the values that our political parties are based on," My Vote Counts says.

"My Vote Counts believes that information about the private funding of political parties and independent candidates is reasonably required to exercise an ‘informed’ vote at the ballot box.

"Access to information about the private funding of political parties was not required during the apartheid era, and more than 20 years into SA’s democracy, political parties continue to insist on accepting private funds in secret.

"In July 2016, My Vote Counts asked the High Court in Cape Town to declare that ‘information about the private funding of political parties is reasonably required for the effective exercise of the right to vote’."

It also asked the court to declare Paia unconstitutional as it did not allow for systematic recording and publicising of donations to political parties.

The High Court gave Parliament 18 months to correct the inconsistencies in Paia.

"It is declared that [Paia] is inconsistent with the Constitution and invalid insofar as it does not allow for the recordal and disclosure of private funding information," Judge Yasmin Meer said in the ruling.

Parliament said it noted the judgment and had begun developing a law to regulate the public and private funding of political parties.

Civil society organisations have long called for Parliament to enact legislation regulating party funding, in line with the African Union, the United Nations, and anticorruption codes signed by SA.

They have argued that the lack of regulation provides ample opportunity for unethical and dishonest donors to influence policy formulation and to meddle in politics.

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