Ramaphosa signs election bill into law – including changes to donation rules

 ·7 May 2024

President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill into law, despite worries over the impact that it would have on political funding.

The Bill has been disputed by various political parties, claiming it is “unconstitutional” because it ultimately removes the cap on political party donations and changes disclosure criteria.

The legislation, passed by Parliament in March and signed by Ramaposa on 7 May 2024, amends the Political Party Funding Act.

This is so that it aligns with the Electoral Amendment Act of 2023 to allow independent candidates to run for positions in the National Assembly and provincial legislatures.

The bill also seeks to regulate donations to independent candidates in the same manner as political parties, and allows them access to the Multi-Party Democracy Fund once elected, which currently supports political parties with private sector donations.

A statement from the Presidency quoted Ramaphosa saying, “in a year in which voters are presented with the greatest diversity of electoral choice, the legislation that is now enacted constitutes tangible, material support for a vibrant, competitive, open and equitable electoral system and democratic culture.”
However, critics say that the Electoral Matters Amendment Bill created a temporary gap in the law by removing the limit on how much funding political parties may receive from donors and not requiring parties or independents to declare their donations.

Currently, political parties may not receive more than R15 million in a financial year from an external source and all donations over R100,000 must also be declared quarterly to the Electoral Commission.

Initially, the bill would have changed this to give the president the sole power to change the threshold and limits for donations. 

Legal advice found that this would be unconstitutional.

The president will now have the authority to establish limits upon receiving a resolution from the National Assembly.

Parliamentary legal advisor, Charmaine van der Merwe, said that Parliament retains the current limits prescribed in the Political Party Funding Act for the time being. 
“The president can only make those regulations upon a resolution from the National Assembly, so we are sitting between a rock and a hard place.”

“But we are fortunate that the Act currently provides that in section 24, that the National Assembly may make a resolution and that the president may then make regulations based on that resolution,” said van der Merwe.

Read: 27 new laws waiting for Ramaphosa’s signature – with time running out

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