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Concourt ruling means no more secret funders for party campaigns

The Constitutional Court (ConCourt) judgment on the Executive Ethics code yesterday will have a marked effect on how funds will be used for internal campaigns.

The ConCourt upheld a December ruling from the High Court in Pretoria that found the Executive Ethics Code was unconstitutional insofar as it did not require members to disclose donations when they personally benefited.

The ruling emanated from a challenge to the code from the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism.

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Executive director Sam Sole said they were delighted by the judgment, which took them a step further in pushing for greater transparency and accountability regarding the role of money in politics.

“This ruling closes the loophole that allowed members of the executive to claim money raised for their internal leadership campaigns was not a personal benefit, as long as the money was not controlled by them personally,” he said.

Sole said the court ruled there was a very broad requirement to disclose financial interests of any kind.

The ruling, handed down by Justice Steven Majiedt, established the code in its current form fell short of transparency, accountability and openness. In the unanimous judgment, Majiedt noted the exclusion of donations from disclosure undermined the Ethics Act and the conflict of interests regime, which was said to be crucial in the fight against corruption.

Majiedt also ruled President Cyril Ramaphosa was expected to remedy the defects as the declaration of the unconstitutionality was suspended for 12 months.

‘We have the right to know’

Political analyst Dr Ntsikelelo Breakfast said there were some gaps in the ethics code and this judgment had bridged those gaps. Breakfast said this was at the heart of democracy and spoke to the issue of transparency.

“We, as the public, have the right to know who was funding the politicians,” he said. Breakfast said there had never been anyone who ascended to the helm of power without receiving money from private donors. “We will now know who funds whoever wants to be the president,” he said.

Political analyst Andre Duvenhage said even if Ramaphosa managed to escape the effect of the ruling with the years grace, it was still a huge blow for him.

Ramaphosa had his CR17 campaign under heavy scrutiny after the successful review of suspended public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s CR17 report, in which she found he breached the code by not disclosing a R500 000 donation from former Bosasa CEO Gavin Watson.

However, Ramaphosa assured parliament he never received such a donation. Duvenhage said if there was enough evidence to continue with an investigation, this would reflect most negatively on Ramaphosa.

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According to Duvenhage, the focus point would be on Ramaphosa and the money spent on his campaign.

“There are more fingers pointing in his direction. This is eroding his so-called moral high ground position,” he said.

“This would give others some sort of a stick to hit the president with; to mobilise support and to taint his image.”

from The Citizen https://www.citizen.co.za/news/south-africa/politics/concourt-ruling-means-no-more-secret-funders-for-party-campaigns/

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