Is it time for laws on party funding? Duarte questions transparency

Jessie Duarte. Picture: Jabu Kumalo
Jessie Duarte. Picture: Jabu Kumalo

Will regulating the funding of political parties be the answer to the questions surrounding donations made to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s election campaign?

Party deputy secretary-general Jessie Duarte believes internal political-party funding is “normal” and “necessary” but, acknowledges that “other tendencies which subvert the democratic process such as voter buying or even intimidation have also emerged”.

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s report regarding donations made towards Ramaphosa’s CR17 campaign has raised concerns about internal ANC political party contestations, and has pushed the governing party into looking at ways to regulate a system that seems to have lost its credibility over the years.

READ: Ramaphosa lobbyists cry foul as records show transactions made to dubious accounts

The decision to interrogate the matter was raised during the national executive committee meeting by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July, according to an article written by Duarte in the recent ANC Today publication.

She quotes Ramaphosa as saying: “If we do not put aside the politics of factionalism, patronage and the unbridled contest for resources, we need among other things a new approach to internal leadership contests.”

The party has previously relied on the Through the Eye of the Needle document as a guideline, but Duarte reiterated that it might not provide “sufficient guidance in such a contested environment”.

The documents states that members of the ANC should draw the line between personal and organisational interests. Reference is also made to members winning genuine acceptance without threats or patronage, however it does not look further into measures that will ensure that every aspect of internal contestations is above board.

READ: ‘We are destroying the ANC with money and patronage’ – Legoete

In the publication, Duarte outlines ways that the ruling party is seeking to clear the grey areas, to ensure that deserving candidates are selected at conferences and at the same time, maintain agency within the branch levels.

“Guidelines needed for fundraising ... how does the organisation ensure that there is greater transparency and accountability? Does it place limits to the funds and how can it ensure that state resources are not abused,” Duarte said.

“The ANC is undertaking this process of its own accord, understanding that democracy consumes resources, but determined that these resources should not be allowed to consume democracy. We hope that all parties and all South Africans will seize this opportunity for a necessary and meaningful debate,” she explained.

President Ramaphosa has been under fire following allegations that he paid delegates for votes at the party’s 54th conference in December 2017.

The Public Protector’s report, which was supposed to be about the R500 000 donated by Bosasa, broadened its scope by identifying individuals and companies that donated inflated amounts towards the campaign.

Since the release of the report and the remedial action, which includes an instruction that the National Prosecuting Authority investigate a case of money laundering, pressure has mounted for Ramaphosa to disclose all funding for his CR17 campaign.

Although the president tried to maintain the confidentiality of the records, the emails containing the records have been leaked and have exposed the individuals and organisations that benefited from the donations.

The funds in question are said to have been paid to organisations including tripartite alliance partner Cosatu, Western Cape ANC, Umkhonto weSizwe Military Veterans Association and the Congress of South African Students.

Deputy Minister in the Presidency Thembi Siweya was reportedly paid R2.3 million; ANC national executive committee member Enoch Godongwana was reportedly paid R400 000; and former Free State MEC Mxolisa Dukwana was reportedly paid R600 000.

While robust debate on social media has raised questions on how the records were obtained and whether it was done legally, the information continues to lurk in the public space.

Duarte believes that this is all a ploy to tarnish Ramaphosa’s reputation and efforts to steer the country into the right direction.

“The calls for President Ramaphosa to ‘come clean’ are misplaced and unfair. There is no requirement in law and there is no convention that leaders should declare donations made to internal campaigns,” the senior party official said.

She added: “No other leaders in the ANC have done so and no other parties have done so. It is not correct to seek to establish and impose some kind of standard after the fact, and to do so with respect to only one campaign out of many.”

Duarte also believes that it is unfair that the promise to keep donors confidential has been broken and said the leak of the details of some donors should not change that commitment.

On Monday, Ramaphosa successfully interdicted the Public Protector’s remedial action in her report on his receipt of funding from Bosasa.

Mkhwebane’s investigation came into light following a charge by DA leader Mmusi Maimane of lying to and willfully misleading Parliament.

Queenin Masuabi

Journalist | City Press

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