ActionSA plans legal challenge against IEC's Multiparty Democracy Fund

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ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba addresses a crowd.
ActionSA leader Herman Mashaba addresses a crowd.
Darren Stewart, Gallo Images
  • ActionSA is opposing the IEC's fundraising for the Multiparty Democracy Fund.
  • The party has said the IEC should be impartial, which is in line with the Constitution.
  • It has not ruled out going to court to challenge the matter.

ActionSA is preparing to launch a legal challenge against the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) for fundraising for the Multiparty Democracy Fund (MPDF), which it claims will be for the benefit of only some political parties.

In a legal letter seen by News24, the party said it was concerned that the IEC conducted its duties in a biased manner and violated the Constitution. It has given the IEC 24 hours to respond to their legal letter or face a court battle.

The MPDF was set up following the signing into law of the Political Party Funding Act.

In terms of the new law, the IEC administers the fund. The money will be distributed to political parties represented in all legislatures.

But ActionSA said they wanted the IEC to cease actively soliciting donations for the fund.

ActionSA national chairperson Michael Beaumont said they believed such activities violated the IEC's constitutional mandate to remain impartial, given that the funds from the MPDF were exclusively distributed to political parties represented in legislatures.

READ | New Political Party Funding Act hailed as a victory for transparency, accountability

"In other words, when the IEC solicits donations for the MPDF, a defined group of parties (who legislated for their benefit) receive the funds while other political parties do not. The basis of these demands is that nothing in either the Political Party Funding Act or its regulations empowers the IEC to actively solicit donations for the MPDF," he said.

The party said the act does not empower the IEC to target donors and solicit funds from them on behalf of political parties. It also said the act limited the role of the CEO of the IEC to manage and administer the fund.

Action SA, led by former Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba, is not represented in any legislatures.

Beaumont said the IEC's response to their legal letter only referred to vague and general responsibilities, none of which were in the regulations.

Beaumont said:

In contrast, the Constitution is explicit in Section 190(1)(a): The Electoral Commission must manage to ensure that those elections are free and fair. ActionSA contends that political parties that are launched between national and provincial elections are prejudiced when (the) proceeds of the MPDF are distributed to their competitors. It should be noted that political parties represented in legislatures already receive billions of rands in taxpayer funding.

The party said it didn't believe that political parties should be funded by either the South African taxpayer or the IEC. The party said it was a criminal offence to "interfere with the independence or impartiality of the Commission.

"In the chairperson's response, the IEC refuses to provide the recording of the virtual meeting of the National Party Liaison Committee (NPLC) meeting, during which the revelations of their fundraising activities emerged. The only logical conclusion is that the IEC does not want to release the recordings that reveal the admissions that the IEC was actively soliciting donations from prospective donors," Beaumont said.

Meanwhile, the IEC said it's aware of ActionSA's legal threat. It said the party's contentions and allegations of impartiality on the part of the electoral commission are unfounded and devoid of merit.

"The Commission has merely undertook activities inherent in its statutory responsibility to manage the Multi-Party Democracy Fund by...making potential contributors aware of the opportunity to make contributions," said the IEC's spokesperson Khanyisile Nkosi.

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