Tito Mboweni PPE

Photo: Flickr / GCIS

Mboweni considering increased funding for SA’s political parties

Mboweni said that political parties risk being ‘captured by outside donors’ after the introduction of funding restrictions.

Tito Mboweni PPE

Photo: Flickr / GCIS

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni has indicated that he is willing to listen to African National Congress (ANC) treasurer-general Paul Mashatile’s requests for more state funding for South Africa’s political parties, with the need to “pay for democracy” becoming increasingly urgent in light of fundraising challenges. 

This according to the Sunday Times, who reported on 11 October that plans are afoot to request an increase of nearly R340 million to state allocated funding for political parties each year. The request follows the imminent introduction of strict rules surrounding fundraising, as well as high-profile funding scandals that have seen the private sector slow their contributions. 

Mboweni: ‘We must pay for democracy’  

The Sunday Times spoke to Mboweni, who said that the need to increase funding to political parties with taxpayer’s money is “legitimate” because if they are not properly equipped, “outside donors” would be in a position to “capture South Africa’s democracy”. 

“A democracy that cannot support itself runs the risk of being captured by outside donors,” he said.

“For the integrity and sanctity of our political system we have to pay for our democracy. To that extent, I look forward to a conversation with all political parties about how we can go about funding them.”

He insisted that there would nonetheless need to be strict constraints on the amount of money provided to political parties though. 

“It is a legitimate issue. I don’t think it’s proper for our political parties to be funded by donors in the Middle East or wherever. We should fund our own political parties in defence of our democracy and political party system – but within fiscal constraints.”

Political Party Funding Act delayed  

The Political Party Funding Act, which has been signed by President Cyril Ramaphosa but which is yet to be legislated, is aimed at making all donations to political parties transparent so as to ensure that there are fewer incidents of corruption in the campaign process. 

During testimony at the state capture commission last month, businessman Edwin Sodi – who was subsequently arrested by the Hawks – confirmed that his company received contracts in excess of R1 billion over 10 years and paid millions to various ANC officials in the form of donations, Herein lies the need such transparency to be introduced.

Sodi was arrested by the Hawks for unlawfully benefitting from the 2014 asbestos tender in the Free State.

Parties ‘struggling to raise funds’ 

Mashatile said that the ANC has “found it very difficult to fundraise from the private sector” since the act was signed. 

“There are many private companies that don’t want to be disclosed. That is why at the moment we don’t disclose who is funding us. [The act] has created a very difficult environment for fundraising,” he told the Sunday Times. 

“Once the act comes into play we are going to have to disclose all our funders. I’ll have to see at that point what happens because there may be those who may not run away, but others may decide to pull out.”

He said that in light of the resulting “reluctance to fund political parties” from the private sector, South Africa would need to follow the lead of Countries like “Germany… [where] a lot of political party funding comes from the state.”

“My sense is that you are going to see a great reluctance to fund political parties. Therefore it’s good for government to fund political parties. It’s good for democracy,” he said.  “That’s my view. It’s not a bad thing. It’s done all over the world.”