Political parties in South Africa now have to disclose every donation they receive

Yesterday, the President of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Political Party Funding bill into law. This is to regulate public and private funding of political parties as South Africa prepares for the May elections, with the fight against corruption a key issue.

“The Act will help the commission to monitor compliance and may request any person to disclose any relevant information or produce, in whatever form, any relevant books, records, reports and any other document it may deem necessary,” the presidency said in a statement.

This bill repeals a 1997 act and compels parties to disclose all donations received to the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC). The legislation is intended to enhance transparency and accountability in the political and electoral system.

Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on fighting corruption after his predecessor Jacob Zuma was mired in graft scandals, faces a test at polls in May as public support has waned for his ruling African National Congress (ANC). Among the bill’s key tools is the setting up of a multi-party democracy fund to equitably distribute monies to the parties.

According to the IEC, a total of 285 national political parties are currently registered. The amount that a political party can accept from a donor in a single financial year will be capped, while donations from foreign governments and monies that are known or suspected to originate from proceeds of crime will be prohibited. In terms of the act, a donation of less than R100,000 ($7,328) doesn’t need to be declared and there is a cap of R15 million ($1.08 million) that one person can donate to a party per year. In order to participate in this year’s national and provincial elections, political parties will also have to pay R200,000 ($14,359).

Lobby group My Vote Counts (MVC), which has advocated for the legislation since 2012, said while the new legislation was “truly historic”, it was “regrettable that the signing of the Bill comes at a stage where it is likely to have no impact on the upcoming 2019 provincial and national elections”.

The ANC will face the main opposition Democratic Alliance and the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party in the elections. The bill comes into play against the backdrop of numerous judicial investigations into corruption and graft in government.