JOHANNESBURG: President Cyril Ramaphosa has signed into law a bill to regulate public and private funding of political parties as South Africa heads for May elections with the fight against corruption a key issue.
The political funding bill, signed on Monday, repeals a 1997 act and obligates parties to disclose all donations received to the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC).
The legislation is intended to enhance transparency and accountability in the political and electoral system.
“The Act will help the commission to monitor compliance and may request any person to disclose any relevant information or produce, in whatever form, any relevant books, records, reports and any other document it may deem necessary,“ the presidency said in a statement.
Ramaphosa, who has staked his reputation on fighting corruption after his predecessor Jacob Zuma was mired in graft scandals, faces a test at polls in May as public support has waned for his ruling African National Congress (ANC).
Among the bills’ key tools is the setting up of a a multi-party democracy fund to equitably distribute monies to the parties.
The amount that a political party can accept from a donor in a single financial year will be capped. While donations from foreign governments and monies that are known or suspected to originate from proceeds of crime will be prohibited.
According to the IEC, a total of 285 national political parties are currently registered.
Parties will have to pay 200,000 rand (US$14,358.74) in order to participate in this year’s national and provincial elections.
Lobby group My Vote Counts(MVC), which has advocated for the legislation since 2012, said while the new legislation was “truly historic”, it was “regrettable that the signing of the Bill comes at a stage where it is likely to have no impact on the upcoming 2019 provincial and national elections”.
An MVC spokeswoman told AFP people could not “make an informative vote” without the funding details that the new legislation would reveal.
It was expected to take up to six months for the electoral commission to implement the new system.
The ANC will face the main opposition Democratic Alliance and the radical leftist Economic Freedom Fighters party in the elections.
The bill comes into play against the backdrop of numerous judicial investigations into corruption and graft in government. — AFP