As the Political Party Funding Act comes into effect today, the Electoral Commission says it is all systems go.
President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a Proclamation on the Commencement of the Political Party Funding Act, 2018 (Act no. 6 of 2018), which regulates public and private funding of political parties.
The Act establishes funds to provide political parties represented in Parliament and legislatures with funding to undertake their work. It also requires that donations be disclosed by parties and donors to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
The Act prohibits donations to parties by foreign governments or agencies, foreign persons or entities, organs of state or state-owned enterprises.
“The implementation of the Act introduces a new era of transparency within South Africa’s electoral democracy, mandating all political parties to disclose donations above R100 000 to the Electoral Commission.
“The Act also sets restrictions on sources of funding for political parties including outlawing donations by government departments, state-owned entities and foreign governments and agencies,” the Electorial Commission said in a statement.
Over the last two months, the Electoral Commission has embarked on a comprehensive programme of stakeholder engagement which included training all political parties represented in the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures on the workings of the Act and use of a new Online Party Funding System (OPFS).
Training was also extended to all political parties registered with the Commission, including those that are currently not represented in any of the legislative Houses.
From today, all registered political parties are urged to sign-up to the Online Party Funding System (OPFS) available for free at www.elections.org.za.
The system, which has been piloted by parties over the past two months, allows parties and their donors to make electronic disclosures to the Electoral Commission via the internet.
The Commission also reminds all registered political parties that their first quarterly disclosure of direct donations above R100 000 is due at the end of the first quarter.
In terms of the Act, donations include cash, in kind (such as transport, posters, vehicles etc) or both and the R100 000 threshold is cumulative (disclosure is required once smaller donations by a single donor exceed R100 000 in a financial year).
Funds provided to the represented political parties by the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, respectively, in terms of sections 57(2) and 116(2)(c) of the Constitution are not required to be disclosed quarterly by the political parties.
Instead, these will be disclosed by the Accounting Officer of the respective legislative Houses annually.
As part of the system of checks and balances to help ensure transparency, donors who make direct donations above R100 000 to political parties must also declare these to the Electoral Commission on the OPFS within 30 days.
The regulations require that upon receipt of the political party disclosures, the Electoral Commission make them publicly available quarterly on its website.
In the first year of implementation, the Electoral Commission is given a period of up to six months to make such disclosures publicly available.
The Electoral Commission estimates that there will be at least one disclosure published ahead of the Local Government Elections.
The Electoral Commission has also been engaging potential funders to support the Multi-Party Democracy Fund (MPDF) as part of its fund-raising drive to encourage donations to the Fund.
The Fund presents a perfect opportunity for corporates, individuals and foundations to support multi-party democracy on a non-partisan basis.
Within the parameters of applicable prescripts, contributors to the Fund can request to do so anonymously should they prefer.
As part of the implementation of the Act, the Electoral Commission will today launch a series of educational messages on radio, television, digital channels and selected publications to promote awareness of the Act.