Political parties must disclose all donations, ConCourt hears

Johannesburg - Non-profit organisation My Vote Counts argued in the Constitutional Court on Tuesday that it was critical for voters to know who funded political parties so they could be informed citizens and make the right decisions.

The organisation was applying for a confirmation order, following a Western Cape High Court ruling that found the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) unconstitutional because it did not provide for the disclosure of information pertaining to private funding political parties receive.

Western Cape High Court judge Yasmin Shenaz Meer ruled that Parliament had 18 months to rectify the "inconsistencies" in the PAIA.

READ: Political parties should disclose private funding - court ruling

In her judgment last year, Meer said information about private funding was "reasonably required" for the effective exercise of the right to vote and to make political choices.

My Vote Counts said the High Court order had no force until it had been confirmed by the Constitutional Court, with the Minister of Justice being the opposing party.

Advocate Max du Plessis, for My Vote Counts, argued in court on Tuesday that all donations to political parties should be disclosed until Parliament determines the limits.

The public domain

"We say that political parties and their information are in the public domain… as a result, who funds them are also in the public domain," Du Plessis said.

"Our position is that we need the information [about who funds political parties] to make an informed decision and cast an informed vote."

He told the court that it was critical for voters to know about all the donations to parties and added that these include the use of stadiums and vehicles as an example.

Du Plessis argued there were major problems with the "architecture" of the PAIA and asked the Constitutional Court to suspend the order to allow Parliament to deal with the inconsistencies and problems.

Reforming our political system

The organisation also said: "This litigation process aims to reform our political system by making it more transparent to the South African public, therefore allowing the public to hold political representatives and political organisations more accountable, not only on election day, but also in between elections."

Advocate Thabani Masuku, who appeared on behalf of the Minister of Justice, argued that "some voters don't actually need that information to vote".

"We do not suggest that private donor information is irrelevant,” he said.

Masuku said: "What the constitution envisages is access to information that is held, information that exists."

He said the act didn't allow for the creation or generation of information that didn't exist.

Masuku argued that the private funding information was not an indispensable requirement for the exercise of the rights to make political choices, to campaign for a cause and to vote.

Judgment was reserved.