Publication: The Natal Witness Issued: Date: 2005-04-22 Reporter: Opinion Reporter Reporter:

Funding Disclosure



The Natal Witness




Opinion Reporter

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For differing reasons, both the ANC and the DA have welcomed the Cape High Court ruling that political parties, as private rather than public bodies, cannot be compelled to disclose the sources of donor funding. Part of the DA's reasoning is the concern that, deprived of anonymity, potential funders of opposition parties may stop their donations for fear that the government might discriminate against them (for example in the awarding of state contracts). The DA argues that the donor's right to privacy does not conflict with the principle of transparency and that maintaining this confidentiality will discourage influence peddling and corruption.

The initial response from the ANC has focused more on the legal and constitutional correctness of the court ruling, with an assertion that the funding issue should properly be dealt with by Parliament rather than the courts. The ANC's stance on the matter is, however, not entirely consistent.

In the broader southern African context, it is already a signatory to an agreement that sources of party funding should in fact be disclosed. It is surely contradictory for the party to contest a court application seeking to establish the same principle domestically. Possibly the explanation for this lies in the commitment given to the court by the ANC that it intends to review the issue of regulating party funding in Parliament in the future.

While making his ruling in terms of existing law, Judge Ben Griesel noted that a "compelling case" had been made for revising the legislation in the interests of greater openness and transparency. Many people will agree with Idasa (which brought the application in the first place) that secrecy about party funding cuts across the principles of transparency and accountability, and that for elections to be free and fair, voters need better access to this kind of information.

With acknowledgement to The Natal Witness.