New changes on party funding in South Africa take effect from midnight

The Electoral Commission has announced that the Political Party Funding Act will come into operation from midnight, 1 April 2021.

The commission said that implementation of the act will introduce a new era of transparency within South Africa’s electoral democracy, mandating all political parties to disclose donations above R100,000.

The act also sets restrictions on sources of funding for political parties including outlawing donations by government departments, state-owned entities and foreign governments and agencies.

“Over the last two months, the electoral commission embarked on a comprehensive programme of stakeholder engagement which included training all political parties represented in the National Assembly and the provincial legislatures on the workings of the Act and use of a new Online Party Funding System (OPFS).

“Training was also extended to all political parties registered with the commission, including those that are currently not represented in any of the legislative houses,” it said.

From 1 April, registered political parties are urged to sign-up to the Online Party Funding System (OPFS).

The system, which has been piloted by parties over the past two months, allows parties and their donors to make electronic disclosures to the electoral commission via the internet.

“The commission also reminds all registered political parties that their first quarterly disclosure of direct donations above R100,000 is due at the end of the first quarter.

“In terms of the Act, donations include in cash, in kind (e.g. transport, posters, vehicles etc) or both; and the R100,000 threshold is cumulative  – disclosure is required once smaller donations by a single donor exceed R100,000 in a financial year.”

Funds provided to the represented political parties by the National Assembly and provincial legislatures, respectively, in terms of sections 57(2) and 116(2)(c) of the Constitution are not required to be disclosed quarterly by the political parties.

Instead, these will be disclosed by the accounting officer of the respective legislative houses annually, it said.

Checks and balances

As part of the system of checks and balances to help ensure transparency, donors who make direct donations above R100,000 to political parties must also declare these to the Electoral Commission on the OPFS within 30 days.

The regulations require that upon receipt of the political party disclosures, the Electoral Commission make them publicly available quarterly on its website. In the first year of implementation, the Electoral Commission is given a period of up to six months to make such disclosures publicly available.

The Electoral Commission estimates that there will be at least one disclosure published ahead of the Local Government Elections.

The Electoral Commission said it has also been engaging potential funders to support the Multi-Party Democracy Fund (MPDF) as part of its fund-raising drive to encourage donations to the Fund.

“This Fund present a perfect opportunity for corporates, individuals and foundations to support multi-party democracy on a non-partisan basis. Within the parameters of applicable prescripts, contributors to the Fund can request to do so anonymously should they prefer.”

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New changes on party funding in South Africa take effect from midnight