Political parties the big winners in this year's budget with major funding boost

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Municipal election posters of political parties in Soweto.
Municipal election posters of political parties in Soweto.
Gallo Images/Fani Mahuntsi
  • Political party funding is up 30% in this year's budget.  
  • The boost is part of the state's plan to reduce corruption. 
  • The money split between parties in Parliament. 

Political parties were the biggest winner in this week’s budget with a 30% hike in funding allocations. 

Between them, political parties represented in Parliament got R166 million from taxpayers in 2021/22. Over the next three years, this will grow by an average of 30% rising to R342 million this year and R366 million in the final year of the three-year budget framework. 

The move is in line with reforms to party funding, introduced when the Political Party Funding Act came into force last year. The Act requires that no single donor fund any one party by more than R15 million a year and requires public disclosure for all donations in cash or kind above R100 000. 

As it was anticipated that this would make some donors reluctant to donate money, the quid pro quo when the Act was processed in Parliament was the fiscus would increase support to political parties.

The ANC has been particularly hard-hit by the new requirements as it has relied on donations from businesspeople and companies that have scored large, often inflated, government tenders.

That this was often corrupt, was laid bare in evidence at the Zondo Commission where tenderpreneurs, who had amassed enormous wealth from government contracts, spoke about their largesse to politicians and to the ANC. 

Former Cabinet minister and constitutional negotiator Valli Moosa - who was the architect of the Political Party Funding Act - said that greater support from the fiscus was always part of the deal. 

"The understanding was to get parties to depend more on state funding than on business, so that they are less beholden to individuals with money," Moosa said on Friday.

More money needed

He believes, though, that the amounts allocated are still not sufficient to reduce corruption.

"They should have allocated more. Political parties can’t survive on that. As long as the taxpayer does not fund political parties, they will have no choice but to scrounge around for money," he said. 

The money, which will sit in the Represented Political Parties Fund, is administered by Electoral Commission of SA. A third is allocated equitably to all parties with seats in the National Assembly or provincial legislatures.

The remainder is distributed proportionally according to a party’s size. Parties without representation in national and provincial legislatures – such as Herman Mashaba’s Action SA – do not receive funding.

  • 1/3 equal (33.3%): A third is allocated equitably to all parties that hold seats in the National Assembly or any provincial legislature;
  • 2/3 proportional (66.6%): Two thirds allocated in proportion to seats held by a political party in the National Assembly or provincial legislatures.

The funding is distributed quarterly.

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