The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will be monitoring party funding disclosures after President Cyril Ramaphosa signed the Political Party Funding Bill into law on Tuesday.
Commission chairperson Glen Mashinini said the signing of the bill would assist in making things easier for the commission.
“We welcome the signing of the bill into law and we hope this will settle the issue of all legislative requirements we needed to ensure were in place for elections,” he said during a media briefing held by the commission at its offices on Wednesday.
The act will regulate public and private funding of political parties and promote the transparency of funding.
Chief electoral officer Sy Mamabolo said that although it might be impossible for parties to disclose their funding by this year’s elections, the commission would be keeping a close eye on what was going on.
“We are planning on implementing the bill on April 1 this year and the practicalities are such that it may be impossible for parties to be able to submit their disclosures before the elections. But soon thereafter there will be a requirement for them to submit and that might include elections-related expenditure,” he said.
Mamabolo added that donations above a certain threshold had to be disclosed.
“Any donations above R100 000 have to be disclosed. They have to be disclosed by both the donor and the recipient of the funds. If both parties don’t disclose, there are in-built consequences in the bill itself,” he said.
“There are fines which could be given by the commission as well as possible criminal prosecution. So there could either be the payment of a fine or there could be criminal offences that arise. This however is a matter that we will deal with extensively when we publish fund regulations for public comment.”
The regulations were expected to be published for public comment before the end of February 2019.
The new bill cancels the Public Funding of Represented Political Parties Act of 1997 which gave state support to political parties through the representative political parties fund, administered by the electoral commission on the basis of the number of members a party had in Parliament and number of representatives in provincial legislature.
Following the National Assembly’s approval of the bill in 2018, the Economic Freedom Fighters was the only party which opposed it, saying it should not be passed with a provision that prohibits members of parties from accepting donations that aren’t meant for political purposes.
However, in an interesting turn of events at a media briefing held by the party on Wednesday, EFF leader Julius Malema said they welcomed the bill.
Meanwhile, with the national elections a few months away, Mamabolo said that preparations were in place for the country’s over 22 000 voting stations to open from 8am to 5pm over the weekend.
“It’s all systems go for the final registration weekend this Saturday and Sunday, January 26 and 27. Stations are ready to allow new voters to register and for all existing voters to check and update their addresses,” he said.
Mamabolo said the commission hoped at least one million additional voters would be added to the national common voters’ roll during this weekend’s registration drive.
“There are currently 26 million registered voters on the national common voters’ roll and from those people we do not have the addresses of 1.5 million people,” he said.
“The electoral commission is especially eager for young, first time-voters to register as a new generation of participants in our 25-year-old electoral democracy.”
City Press reported earlier this month that despite representing over 50% of the country’s population, South Africans under 30 had the lowest levels of voter registration.
Mamabolo reiterated this sentiment when he said that from the 10 million plus South Africans who were eligible to vote but had not registered, about 6.5 million were between the ages of 18 and 30 years.
In an effort to appeal to young people the commission launched an innovative communication and education campaign to encourage the youth to register and vote in the 2019 national and provincial elections.
The campaign uses the catch phrase “Xsê”, a play on the Afrikaans phrase “Ek sê” which means “I say”, and features young South Africans from all walks of life detailing why they believe it is important for young people to vote in the upcoming elections.
Other discussions at the commission’s briefing on Wednesday included complaints laid by the ANC against the DA regarding the opposition party’s controversial election billboard campaign which listed the names of the victims of the Marikana massacre and the Life Esidimeni tragedy as well as those of children who died in pit toilets.
IEC commissioner Mosotho Moepya said the complaint was still being investigated.
“The outcome of the investigation will determine the way forward,” he said.