The ad hoc committee on the funding of political parties has elected ANC MP Vincent Smith as its chairperson.
Smith‚ who is also a member of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts‚ shot to prominence after chairing the ad hoc committee that investigated the crisis at the SABC. That ad hoc committee received rave reviews and its work was widely seen as a watershed moment as parliamentarians united to uncover the rot at the public broadcaster‚ and to hold executives accountable. Similar ad hoc committees have been mooted for other state-owned entities.
The National Assembly unanimously agreed in June to establish an ad hoc committee to look into the funding of political parties. The committee will consist of 11 members — six from the ANC‚ two from the DA‚ one from the EFF and two representing all other parties in the National Assembly.
The committee would inquire into‚ and make recommendations on‚ funding of political parties‚ with a view to introducing or amending legislation if necessary‚ and will consider a model for adequate public funding for political parties represented in Parliament and the provincial legislatures. It would also look at the regulation of funding of parties by private institutions as well as investment entities owned by political parties.
Smith said on Wednesday that the committee would begin its work by inviting members of the public to make submissions on how political party funding could be strengthened. The public will have until July 21 to make written submissions‚ after which the committee will arrange for interested parties to make oral presentations.
The committee‚ which has to report back to the National Assembly by the end of November‚ will make recommendations on the regulation of private funding as well as the model of public and private funding for political parties.
In May‚ ANC chief whip Jackson Mthembu said political parties were poorly funded by the state‚ which forced parties to rely heavily on private donors.
Mthembu said political parties’ reliance on private funding fuelled the perception that anonymous donations from business interests were a means to subvert democratic processes‚ by influencing the awarding of contracts or “framing of policy in a manner that advantages private interests‚ dilutes the voice of citizens and undermines the Constitution”.
Private political party funding has been a contentious issue in recent times‚ with civil society groups calling for the regulation of private financing of parties in line with AU‚ UN and other anticorruption codes the country has signed.