07/11/2017 21:24 SAST | Updated 07/11/2017 21:24 SAST

BLF: Hefty Fee To Contest Elections Should Be Scrapped

Black First Land First was one of four delegations due to make public representations before Parliament's ad hoc committee on party funding on Tuesday.

Alet Pretorius / Getty Images
Black Land First (BLF) members led by Andile Mngxitama and Zanele Lwaini protests outside MiWay Insurance headquarters on July 21, 2017 in Centurion, South Africa.

Black First Land First (BLF) proposed to parliamentarians on Tuesday that a R600 000 deposit fee required to register as a party contesting an election should be scrapped.

The BLF was one of four delegations due to make public representations before Parliament's ad hoc committee on party funding on Tuesday.

The ad hoc committee is currently holding its second round of public hearings into a draft political party funding bill which will be finalised and voted on in Parliament before the end of November.

BLF spokesperson Lindsay Maasdorp told the committee that the R600 000 deposit needed to register with the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) worked against democracy.

"We submit that instead of a deposit, each political party submits a list of a minimum of 50 000 signatures of those people intending to vote for the political party – enough to represent one seat in Parliament.

"BLF rejects the imposition of this deposit. It is both unfair and unreasonable to new entrants to elections. Furthermore, it benefits those political parties that have access to huge and sometimes dubious private funding."

Independent private donors' fund

Maasdorp said the motivation for the signatures will put people and ideas back at the centre of politics, instead of money, so that parties would not be easily "bought... by a Johann Rupert".

He made an example of the FF Plus, whose member Corné Mulder was present, saying it had so few seats in Parliament, but had a disproportionate amount of money to campaign compared to newer parties.

BLF also wanted to see the establishment of an independent private donors' fund which all political parties should have access to, as opposed to direct private donations.

"People say we are sponsored by the Guptas, others say the DA is sponsored by Johann Rupert and Zionists," Maasdorp said.

READ: BLF And Faux Revolutionaries Are Hijacking Debates We Should Be Having Without Them

If all private donations went into one fund, then all political parties would be sponsored by the same people, he said.

BLF provincial chairperson Ncedisa Mpemnyama said money was a stumbling block for ordinary, young black people who want to see the country moving forward in an equitable manner.

'Disclosure must be public'

Another presenter on Tuesday was Information Regulator Advocate Pansy Tlakula.

She said the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) should be amended to include political parties and "public bodies" and thus subject them to more stringent rules.

Our main point is that we live in a constitutional democracy where we all strive for openness, and political parties are very central to our democracy.

Citizens don't vote for individuals, but parties. Therefore, they need to be able to access all relevant information regarding a given political party, as every action a party takes is by nature a public one. Therefore, the funding of said party should be public knowledge as well, she said.

Tlakula cited the recent court judgment in favour of My Vote Counts where the Western Cape High Court ruled that PAIA be amended to allow for party funding information to be recorded.

She said the bill as it stands should not allow the option for anonymous disclosure, saying the public nature of political parties trumps a citizen's right to donate privately.

Donating privately leaves the system open for abuse or influence, she said.

The ad hoc committee is due to hear from four more presenters later on Tuesday, and will return for a second and last day of public hearings on Wednesday.

-- News24