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Public disclosure of political funders is necessary

By Staff Writer
My Vote Counts, a non-profit organisation, is calling on Parliament to pass legislation to make it compulsory for political parties to disclose the names of private funders. It believes that by withholding this information, the public is not able to make well informed decisions during elections.
 
An article written by Gregory Solik, coordinator for My Vote Counts, said the private funding of political parties leads to a select few having ownership of the government.
 
"Democracy cannot be sustained if people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than democracy itself," said Solik.
 
In February the Constitutional Court will hear arguments over whether or not Parliament should pass such legislation.
 
Naming the private funders
 
According to My Vote Counts, having the names of private funders of political parties is necessary as it allows the public to gage who these parties may feel obligated to support. There is also the risk that party officials may show a degree of favouritism to those who have helped to fund the party.
 
"We support the disclosure of party funders, provided it is done so equally across all political parties and provided that we are able to protect our donor's right to privacy by having a confidential donor registry. This registry protects donors who want to remain strictly anonymous, for fear of prejudice," said Phumzile Van Damme, Democratic Alliance (DA) National spokesperson.
 
Opposition
 
National Assembly Speaker Baleka Mbete and National Council of Provinces chairman Thandi Modise are opposing the application on the grounds that this information should be accessible through the Promotion of Access to Information Act if, as My Vote Counts claims, political parties are part of the State.
 
The Act says that people have a constitutional right access information that is held by either the State or another person if it is required for the exercise or protection of any rights.
 
According to the written arguments submitted by Mbete and Modise to the court, if My Vote Counts believes that the Promotion of Access to Information Act does not adequately cover access to information regarding political funders, the organisation should have challenged the Act's constitutionality in the High Court.
 
My Vote Counts believes that the secret funding of parties has the potential to encourage or conceal corruption within the government, and therefore there should be public disclosure of private funders.
 
In his article, Solik stated: "We must commit ourselves to the same standards of transparency and accountability if we are to tackle corruption."

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