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Speech by Hon. Vincent G. Smith on the Funding of Political Parties on Political Party Funding Bill [B 33 2017]

Honourable Speaker, Honourable Members, Comrades and Fellow South Africans Good day.

The Political Party Funding Bill that we present to this house today is long overdue.

Honourable Speaker, our democracy was won through major sacrifices being made, especially by the previously disenfranchised, and we must guard this young democracy jealously and unapologetically.

It is our contention that all political formations that believe in accountability; in transparency; in our Sovereignty as a nation and in democracy must be in support of this Bill coming into law.

The argument, often advanced, of safeguarding donor`s privacy at the expense of making their identity known to voters, flies in the face of transparency.

The argument of possible victimization of donors by the governing party of the day, at Municipal, Provincial and Nation level will be addressed later and therefor should not arise going forward.

Colleagues, The Constitution, in (s) 236 states that in order to enhance multi-party democracy, national legislation must provide for the funding of political parties participating in national and provincial legislatures on an equitable and proportional basis. All the smaller political parties have raised a concern that the current fund distribution formula of 90% proportional and 10% equitable does not conform to the said Constitutional provision. The Bill goes a long way in addressing this matter and should be welcomed by all.

Colleagues it is very important to note that at no time during the last twenty-four years have political parties been obliged to be transparent about their sources of funding.

Notwithstanding the fact that at the centre of our parliamentary duty as members of parliament, is the obligation to hold others accountable, we as represented political parties are not being held accountable to explain how we use the donations received from private funders or why these donations to political parties are being made in the first instance. In this regard the overwhelming majority of the South African society insist on total disclosure of party funding. The Courts agree and today parliament has heard this demand and we are implementing accordingly.

This Bill is about building a Nation where the RAND never reigns superior to the WILL of the people. The Law must ensure that the narrow private interests of those with big bank balances or who have easy access to party bosses never usurps the will and interests of the general electorate or party supporters who might not be as monied. Towards this end, the Bill limits the amount individuals or entities can donate to any one political party to R15 million in a calendar year.

Fellow South Africans, this Bill is about ensuring that we, at all times, must be the masters of our own destiny. Our aspirations as a people cannot be put on hold simply because foreign powers and interest groups are able to buy or bully our policy-makers and leadership at both party and government level. In safeguarding our hard fought sovereignty, this Bill outlaws all donations from foreign governments and their agencies.

It can never be, that policy preferences adopted by local political parties, are influenced and determined by forces outside of our borders. Our sovereignty must never be sold for 30 pieces of silver.

A further proposal is that political parties are explicitly prohibited from accepting donations from any Organ of State; from State-owned Entities; from Government Departments or from the proceeds of crime.

Honourable Speaker, with regard to transparency which we believe to be an important component of accountability, this Bill obliges all represented political parties to declare to the Independent Electoral Commission, all donations and funds received.

The exception being funds raised through membership fees and subscriptions and any donation less that R50 000.00 per annum.

It is through being aware of who is funding political parties that the electorate will be in a position to monitor whether any undue favours are afforded to any individual or entity as payback for a generous donation.

Comrades, we earlier alluded to the argument advanced that potential donors will be reluctant to donate if their identities are made public because of possible victimization by the relevant governing party when comes to the awarding of possible potential future business opportunities. This argument is without any merit in that the current legislation, including legislation governing Supply Chain Management and the Public Finance Management Act offers sufficient recourse to victimization or unfair and uncompetitive practices.

The establishment of the Multi Party Democracy Fund affords donors who do not wish to be associated with any ONE political party but rather prefer to contribute to the multiple party democracy project, an avenue to make their donations directly into this fund.

An important aspect of the Bill is the proposal that the Independent Electoral Commission be the institution that manages political party funding received from the National Revenue Fund as well as funds donated by the private sector into the Multi Party Democracy Fund. The IEC will have the responsibilities of enforcing compliance, of ensuring that information is readily accessible to all stakeholders as well as the general administration of the various funds.

All represented political parties must, on an annual basis, submit audited financial statements of all funds that have been donated directly the political party.

My colleagues will elaborate on or emphasis other aspects of the Bill. Being members of different political parties representing divergent constituents, it is to be expected that there might not be agreement on all aspects of the Bill. We however take comfort that the committee consulted broadly and that a wide range of the South African society participated. All views regardless of the source were thoroughly debated publicly and where necessary and appropriate incorporated into this proposed legislation. On the day that this Bill is signed into Law, the majority of South Africans will agree with me that our country has taken a step in the right direction towards achieving a society based on democratic values, social justice and fundamental human rights and a South African society united and democratic and able to take its rightful place as a sovereign state in the family of nation.

At this point allow me on behalf of the Committee to express our profound gratitude to the individuals, organisations, and stakeholders who participated in the process, and contributed towards the development of the Political Party Funding Bill.

We extend a special thank you to Professor Halton Cheadle from the university of Cape Town for his voluntary and fulltime support to the committee.

Speaker and Honourable members, as we stated at the onset, this piece of legislation is long overdue and we humbly urge this house to support its adoption.

Baie dankie. Enkosi. Sukraan. Siyabonga and Thank you.

     
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