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The Portfolio Committee on Justice and Correctional Services today held public hearings on the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) Amendment Bill, which relates to donations to political parties.

AmaBhungane, Allan Gray and a private citizen, Mr James Tunbridge, all made oral presentations to the committee yesterday.

Committee Chairperson Mr Bulelani Magwanishe told the meeting that the committee will take all oral and written submissions into consideration when deliberating on the Bill. “All submissions will hold the same weight. All inputs will be taken into consideration when deciding on the Bill.”

The Bill gives an obligation to the accounting officer of a political party (which is defined to include an independent candidate), to create and keep records of any money over R100 000 paid or donated by persons or entities to a political party, any money lent to the political party, any money paid on behalf of a political party, assets, services or facilities provided to a political party and any sponsorships provided to a political party. The records must be made available on social media platforms on a quarterly basis. Furthermore, the clause requires that the records be updated and made available on social media platforms of the political party concerned two months before the election of the National Assembly or Provincial Legislature and before municipal elections.

AmaBhungane, an independent non-profit media company, said in its presentation to the committee that the R100 000 threshold contained in the Bill is too high. It further submitted that funding from party investment vehicles should be included as sources of funding to be disclosed above the threshold. AmaBhungane recommended that Parliament should place a general obligation on political parties and independent candidates to create and hold any and all records, irrespective of the value, to effectively meet their constitutional obligations.

Allan Gray agreed that the proposed limit of R100 000 is too high and that it defeats the purpose of concern around possible corruption. It also said that it is in the best interest of voters that the original donors of funds are identified and disclosed as part of accounting record. It also cautioned the committee that no direct mention is made of gifts to political parties and their related values.

Committee Members Mr James Selfe and Adv Hisamodien Mohamed raised the question of the administrative burden on smaller parties should all donations, even small ones, be documented in the same fashion.

The committee will continue with the public hearings tomorrow.

Rajaa Azzakani
17 September 2019