SA politics of dirty money


7 June 2020

Signing of the new law is victory for transparency

President Cyril Ramaphosa this week finally signed into law the Promotion of Access to Information Amendment Act, marking a historic milestone in the country’s democracy. The act will see political parties and independent candidates disclosing their funders.

For years politicians and political parties have refused to reveal the funders of their election campaigns and what the donors expected in return for their investments, or what promises they would have made to them to splurge cash into their campaigns to get our votes.

On June 21 2018, in a majority ruling led by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the onstitutional Court confirmed a Western Cape High Court judgment regarding the invalidity of the Promotion of Access to Information Act 2 of 2002 (PAIA).

Civil society organisation My Vote Counts had mounted a legal challenge after political parties used PAIA to refuse to disclose their private funders. The organisation argued that transparency on who funds parties and candidates “would help in the fight against the corruption that is tied up with private funding”.

Mogoeng and his esteemed colleagues at the country’s apex court held that voting must be an informed choice and without access to information, the ability of citizens to make responsible political decisions and participate meaningfully in the public life is undermined. “The majority also held that the disclosure of private funding would help the public to detect whose favours political players are likely to return, once elected to public office,” the Constitutional Court said in a post-court media summary.

The Promotion of Access to Information Amendment Act provides for the recording, preservation and disclosure of information on the private funding of political parties and independent candidates. This is a major victory for a country still reeling from the legacy of state capture corruption.

It is a known fact here at home and globally that for years businesspeople have been using cash to buy themselves politicians and organisations that push for policies in favour of their enterprises. It is an age-old art in the theatre of politics for businesses to buy themselves political power and exercise authority that only public representatives should wield.

Many of our politicians have sold their souls to the highest bidder in the quest to access power. This is pronounced in what the ANC has correctly characterised as the crisis of the politics of money. The politics of dirty money.

Elective conference after elective conference, the governing party and its alliance partners, the SACP and Cosatu, have decried the influence of money in organisational processes, so much so that some in the movement believe that conferences are auctions to sell the organisation to the highest bidder.

The movement has long diagnosed that those who buy votes are mostly responsible for the corruption in the state. These unscrupulous men and women seek a repayment of their investment through state contracts and influence over policies – mostly for their own narrow interests, in betrayal of the broad agenda of the economic emancipation of the majority of the people of this country. It is a known truth in ANC circles and other organisations that if you don’t have “resources” (a code name for money) you won’t emerge (as a leader) at a conference.

Some of these dodgy characters who buy conferences or bribe politicians are irregularly awarded tenders  and, worse, end up not even delivering to many poor communities.

Remember the Guptas? Yes, I’m sure you still do, for we live with their legacy of state capture every day.

They too funded leaders in the ANC and the DA, among others. The well-orchestrated looting of our country’s coffers and soul by those ones from Saharanpur in India is well-documented.

The politics of money, especially in a set-up of close party elections such as in the ANC, robs us of good, morally upstanding and ethical leaders. Often, great leaders with the interest of the nation at heart – in particular the poor – don’t have cash bags. But they end up being corrupted by the politics of dirty money.

Dirty money has given us some of the most corrupt and inept leaders. Just look beyond our seas and see the kind of president money politics gave the world’s biggest economy, the US.

The corruption that has arisen from party funding has crippled many aspects of our political life such as democratic institutions, trade unions and other key pillars of our democracy. It has bred a culture of thuggery, unaccountability, greed and brazenness. The corruption in key sections of our society has also cascaded down to ordinary life and thus eroding our social fabric and moral fibre.

Corruption has now become a way of life. It is due to this culture of deep graft that now people pay bribes to access some of the most basic government services such as a driver’s licence, to mention but a few.

Political parties can take a leaf from this new reality to also disclose funders for their internal elections, for that is where the corruption starts.

In the final analysis, the court’s ruling on the disclosure of party funders and the subsequent signing of the PAIA Amendment Act into law is a victory for our democracy.

One hopes this marks the beginning of the end of the dirty money politics that gave us the Guptas and many other rogue politicians and unscrupulous business people in our midst. Going
forward, one also hopes public representatives and servants will serve the interests of the public that elected them, for dirty money produces corrupt societies.

  • Matlala is Sunday World politics editor. Makhudu Sefara is away. His column will resume next week.



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