Political parties should disclose private funding - court ruling

Cape Town – The Western Cape High Court has ruled that Parliament must amend the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) so that the public can access information on political parties' private funding.

Judge Yasmin Shenaz Meer ruled on Wednesday that Parliament has 18 months to rectify "inconsistencies" in PAIA, following an application from non-profit organisation My Vote Counts.

Respondents included President Jacob Zuma, the Minister of Home Affairs, the African National Congress (ANC) and all 12 opposition parties.

Meer said information about private funding is "reasonably required" for the effective exercise of the right to vote and to make political choices by the Constitution.

"It is declared that the Promotion of Access to Information Act, 2 of 2000, 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."

The ruling also applies to independent ward candidates in local elections.

My Vote Counts had also argued for a "continuous and systematic" method in which parties disclose the information.

Meer though said the courts cannot dictate the manner in which Parliament orders parties to disclose their information, as such an order would infringe on the separation of powers.

The request for mere disclosure however can be granted, through an amendment of the PAIA.

The Minister of Justice and Correctional Services and the Democratic Alliance (DA) were ordered to pay the costs of the application.

The ruling will be sent to the Constitutional Court within 15 days of the judgment for confirmation.

Parliament is currently conducting its own ad hoc committee process to review how political parties are funded, and a draft bill was drafted last week for review.

It has set itself a November deadline to formalize a final bill.

*This article has been updated to include quotes from the judgment

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