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Transparency about funding

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There are three main reasons why political parties should immediately open their books about the private funding they receive

Illustration: Colin Daniel

As manifestos and slogans begin flying high in a desperate effort to woo voters, it’s time for politicians to start walking the talk.

Many will be posing as corruption-busters and their manifestos will be full of promises to fight corruption. For the sake of our democracy, transparency and accountability, all political parties should reveal to the electorate who funds them.

It’s only fair for the electorate to know beforehand what private funding their preferred political party receives. It is crucial for the electorate to thoroughly scrutinise whether or not their party will actually represent their interests after the elections have come and gone.

It’s worth noting that more than 24 years since the dawn of democracy, politicians have been dragging their feet when it comes to ensuring there is proper legislation that controls private funding of political parties.

The Political Party Funding Bill has been tabled before Parliament, but there has not been any political will to ensure that it is passed before the much-anticipated elections.

There are three main reasons why political parties should immediately open their books about the private funding they receive.

First, it is the absence of such legislation that has opened the door to massive corruption. Second, the citizens need to know who is paying for their political parties as one condition of financial support is usually political influence.

This is part of the openness that should accompany our democratic elections.

Third, South Africa is vulnerable to influence by foreign interests, thus threatening our self-determination.

The apartheid government held on to power for so long. One of the reasons for this was that it employed secrecy in the manner in which it used state finances; it hid where it received private funding from.

The fight against the apartheid regime was also a fight against this secrecy.

It seems as if our country has gone back to the old days of secrecy, only this time around with an elite few who control the agenda of the country through the private funding of political parties.

The commercialisation of politics in the country means that those parties with huge financial backing from unknown corporates or individuals have a massive advantage over smaller parties with no financial resources.

Part of the solution to these difficult problems we face as a country lies in having greater transparency about the private funding, creating a self-funding model for political parties and equitable state-sponsored funding for all parties.

This would ensure that all the parties are accountable to no one but the people. This is the essence of our democracy.

Vuyolwethu Zungula is the president of the African

Transformation Movement (ATM). The party is registered

to contest the 2019 national and provincial elections.