October 3, 2017

Political parties may soon have to reveal their sources of funding

Knowing where political parties receive their funding is a useful and informative method of making an informed and responsible vote. In considering this, the High Court in the Western Cape came to a potentially ground-breaking decision last week.

The question before the court was whether political parties should be required to disclose from whom or from where their private funding comes from. In considering this question, the court relied on the constitutional rights of access to information in Section 32 of the Constitution and political rights in Section 19, which says that every citizen is free to make a political choice. Once these considerations were weighed and examined, the court found that political parties should, and are now required to, disclose the source from which they receive their private funding.

This will allow citizens to make informed decisions as it forces political parties to be more transparent and perhaps reconsider some of their sources of finance. There is the potential that such a ruling could curb corruption as it would increase public scrutiny of political parties and therefore accountability. For example, should it be disclosed that any political party was financed by the Gupta family, the public outcry would be so large that any party would certainly think twice before considering an offer from the family again.

Despite all of the above, the High Court’s ruling still needs to be confirmed by the Constitutional Court in order for it to have any effect. Should the Constitutional Court not take the same perspective of the High Court, all the potential positive outcomes due to this decision will be null and void as any constitutional challenge needs to be confirmed by the highest court in the land.

Finally, if the order is confirmed by the Constitutional Court, parliament will be required to enact legislation which gives effect to the judgement. It is difficult to say how long this process will take as there is endless red tape to negotiate and steps to follow. It is, however, a step in the right direction.

Author: James Bush

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