South Africa


SA political parties were supposed to submit financial statements to IEC by 30 September – but many haven’t

SA political parties were supposed to submit financial statements to IEC by 30 September – but many haven’t
Patriotic Alliance, ANC and DA logos. (Images: Wikimedia) | Gallo Images | Adobe Stock

All South African political parties were required by law to submit audited financial statements to the Electoral Commission by the end of September. Many did not comply, Daily Maverick has learnt, while others seem to misunderstand the legislation. This issue looks set to test the funding laws like never before.

Friday, 30 September 2022, was a significant deadline for those with an interest in the funding of South Africa’s political parties.

By that date, all South Africa’s registered parties — whether or not they had received enough electoral votes to place MPs in the National Assembly — were required to submit audited financial statements to the Electoral Commission of South Africa (IEC) for the first time since the Political Party Funding Act came into effect in April 2021.

Since that deadline, there has been silence from the IEC on the matter. Daily Maverick has now established that there may, in fact, be precious little on which the IEC can report back to the public at this stage.

“It can be reported at this point that not all the parties have met the deadline of 30 September 2022,” IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela told Daily Maverick on Monday, without giving details as to what proportion of parties had actually complied.

Bapela said that details could only be supplied once the Party Funding Annual Report has been tabled in Parliament. She said that this was expected to happen around late November or early December.

IEC spokesperson Kate Bapela. (Photo: Gallo Images / Foto24 / Cornel van Heerden)

Parties reluctant to supply financial information

There were indications leading up to the September deadline that the commission was braced for non-compliance when it came to what it termed “the biggest task yet to be carried out” since the promulgation of the Political Party Funding Act. 

The funding legislation requires that all parties provide details of all donations, loans, membership fees and income, as well as lists of bank accounts into which this money is deposited.

This information would amount to a treasure trove for journalists, political analysts, political rivals — and, in certain hypothetical scenarios, potentially law enforcement agencies too. Under the circumstances, resistance from parties was to be expected.

The IEC hinted as much in statements earlier this year, indicating that it was readying for the appointment of “a panel of investigators, comprising auditing professionals and firms, forensic investigators, legal firms, and so forth” to probe possible breaches of the law.

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The commission also anticipated some degree of confusion among politicians as to exactly what was required in terms of the financial statement submissions.

“To assist political parties, the commission is currently on a national roadshow to assist registered political parties with training on the preparation and submission of audited financial statements,” the IEC said in May 2022.

That training now looks to have been inadequate in some cases.

Bapela told Daily Maverick on Monday that some parties were labouring under the misapprehension that they were exempt from the reporting requirement by virtue of poverty.

“There are several parties that have written to the commission indicating that they were unable to produce and submit audited financial statements because of the fact that they did not receive any donations or any other forms of income during the year under review,” the spokesperson said.

“This is, unfortunately, not a valid justification in terms of the legislation.”

Bapela said that the IEC was “engaging” with parties that had not complied with the requirement to submit the financial statements.

The biggest test of the funding laws to date

The Political Party Funding Act has now been in effect for more than a full financial year. Up to this point, it has been impossible to know whether parties are complying with the letter of the legislation, though doubts have swirled around the accuracy of the reporting from the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), in particular.

Political parties are required to report, during each financial quarter, any donations of more than R100,000 in value. Only the ANC and the DA have made disclosures for every financial period to date.

Parties have by and large been given “the benefit of the doubt” until now, advocacy group My Vote Counts researcher Robyn Pasensie told Daily Maverick on Monday.

But there can be no comparable ambiguity around whether or not parties have submitted the financial statements the law requires. As a result, says Pasensie, “This will really test the mettle of the IEC.” 

In terms of the legislation, the commission is empowered to pursue cases against those who give false or incomplete information to the IEC about party funding. The penalties may include, at the most punitive end of the scale, a maximum fine of R500,000 and/or two years in prison.

Pasensie said the IEC was also empowered to withhold funding from parties represented in Parliament in the event of proven non-compliance with the law.

The question on the minds of My Vote Counts activists and other observers: Will the IEC be willing to flex its muscles to uphold the Political Party Funding Act? If the commission flinches now, in the face of fairly blatant defiance around the submission of financial statements, it could be the death knell for any meaningful compliance with the law in future. DM


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