South Africa

ANALYSIS

ANC and DA are the big losers and Rise Mzansi the big winner as political party funding game heats up

ANC and DA are the big losers and Rise Mzansi the big winner as political party funding game heats up
From left: Rise Mzansi. (Photo: Fani Mahuntsi / Gallo Images) | Action SA. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla) | DA. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart) | ANC. (Photo: Gallo Images / Darren Stewart)

As the elections approach, the money being poured into SA politics is increasing – with the major beneficiaries being some of the political newcomers.

Newer political parties are the flavour of the moment for funders as the elections approach.

This is the takeaway from the latest tranche of political party funding disclosures released by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on Thursday.

Cumulatively, three parties established less than four years ago – Rise Mzansi, ActionSA and Build One South Africa (Bosa) – raked in close to R40-million in donations from 1 October to 31 December 2023.

Of these, the biggest winner by some distance was Songezo Zibi’s Rise Mzansi, which attracted some R16.7-million despite being currently untested electorally. The lion’s share of this funding came from a familiar figure within the South African political funding ecosystem: Rebecca Oppenheimer, one of the heirs to the family mining fortune, who together with her siblings and mother has been a major player in the funding of opposition parties. Oppenheimer gave Zibi’s outfit the maximum permitted donation within a financial year – R15-million.

Sister Victoria Freudenheim once again chose to boost the books of Herman Mashaba’s ActionSA, contributing R7,486,200. With her was ActionSA’s funder-in-chief from the start, online gambling mogul Martin Moshal, donating R5-million. A number of other smaller donations brought ActionSA’s haul during this period to R13,912,450.

Moshal again pops up in the relevant financial disclosures for Mmusi Maimane’s Bosa (R2-million), with another Oppenheimer scion, Jessica Slack Jell (R6-million).

Jell’s mother Mary Slack previously gave Bosa R5-million.

These latest funding records confirm a previously noted pattern: that a stunningly small pool of wealthy individuals, with Moshal and the Oppenheimers at the centre, keep the financial cogs of the South African political system turning.

That is, of course, if the funding disclosures can be relied upon. Unsurprisingly, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) once again did not declare a single donation surpassing the minimum R100,000 threshold over the October-December period.

This is despite the fact that at least twice within the last seven months, the Fighters have hired stadiums for rallies.

EFF leader Julius Malema has previously claimed that the money for this came from the pre-election funding allocation to political parties from the National Treasury, telling a press briefing in August 2023 that the party had received R35-million more than it was expecting.

ActionSA questions ANC funding

The EFF is not the only party whose financial status is raising eyebrows.

ActionSA released a statement after the latest disclosure publications questioning how the ANC was able to settle a major historical debt on the basis of its declared donations.

ActionSA pointed out that in December 2023, the ANC announced that it had settled a R102-million debt to Ezulweni Investments – without providing details on how this was accomplished.

In the latest funding figures, the ANC has declared just R10-million in donations stemming from its own investment vehicle, the Chancellor House Trust.

It doesn’t add up, ActionSA charges.

Mashaba’s party says that if Ezulweni Investments had discounted the debt, this would have had to have been registered as a donation in kind – which it was not.

“The IEC cannot continue to turn a blind eye to [the] obvious fact that the ANC has settled a debt that it cannot possibly have afforded in terms of its donation disclosures,” ActionSA stated.

In January, ANC treasurer-general Gwen Ramokgopa said the party’s finances had stabilised thanks to membership fees, small individual donations and her belt-tightening measures.

ANC, DA left in donors’ dust

The ANC’s failure to bring in a single significant external donation over this period – again, if the disclosures are to be trusted – is in keeping with a longer-term trend which has seen the party seemingly struggle to attract much funding from the outside.

The DA, however, experienced a precipitous drop in donations over the relevant reporting period – registering its lowest quantum of funding since the Political Party Funding Act was promulgated, at just a little over R2.6-million.

Of this, R1-million came from the Artemis group, whose director Charles Liasides has previously been a DA donor in his personal capacity.

A further donation of just under R1-million was received from Beacon Rock Ltd, which appears to be the company founded by former Xstrata mining boss – and former UK Conservative Party treasurer – Mick Davis.

It should be noted, however, that some of the DA’s regular donors – including members of the Oppenheimer family – have likely already exceeded the maximum cumulative donation of R15-million permissible within a single financial year.

But election campaigning is an expensive business, meaning that the ability to attract funds at this particular juncture is of paramount importance.

Otherwise, rich politicians themselves end up forking out for their own parties – as we have seen in the past from both Herman Mashaba and Cyril Ramaphosa. On this occasion, it was the Patriotic Alliance’s founders Kenny Kunene and Gayton McKenzie dipping into their own pockets to support their party. DM  

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    Oh wow. Talk about non-news. Wow.

  • A S says:

    “that a stunningly small pool of wealthy individuals, with Moshal and the Oppenheimers at the centre, keep the financial cogs of the South African political system turning.” Sorry Rebecca this is incorrect, the national budget keeps parties going with over a billion rand given to parties every year. These private donations are icing on top

    • Dietmar Welz says:

      Only parties in the National Assembly get that funding and a billion every year ? That number is barely possible even after three years of such policy, increased party funding, as reported from the 22/23 three-year budget frame work :), R350 million a year over a quarterly period is roughly the allocation…

  • William Kelly says:

    Interesting. And problematic. A tricky issue to solve. Benevolent dictatorship anyone?

  • Agf Agf says:

    Yet another anti DA article from Rebecca. Surprise surprise.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      All she has done here is report a fact: That donations to the DA have declined significantly, with a lot of money going to newer parties. That’s not being anti-anything, it’s reportage.

      The problem with these comments pages is that anything that doesn’t lick Steenhuisen’s boots or kiss Zille’s behind is seen as flawed, loaded with agenda, and probably, heaven help us!, woke.

  • J vN says:

    SA will be the big loser should Rise Mzansi divides the opposition vote, mark my words. A recent column by the SA Institute of Race Relations points out that Rise Mzansi has unfortunately also embraced the root cause of many of SA’s disasters, BEE. The latter led directly to the downfall of institutions like Eskom, for example by forcing Eskom to buy brooms from parasitic middlemen at R280,000 per broom. BEE is also supported by Rise Mzansi, which clearly indicates that it is just a wannabe ANC, with no real differences in terms of policy and it is clearly sharing the ANC’s greed to snuffle at the same trough of taxpayer largesse.

    • Bob Dubery says:

      I don’t think BEE is the root problem. It is manipulation of the tender system by dishonest individuals, probably with some collusion from the government side (local or national) because somebody has to sign off on these outrageous deals.

      Each and every party worth paying any attention to is promising to uplift the poorest sectors of our society. The interesting one is the DA who are extolling a set of UN “goals” which includes upliftment of the poorest 40%. They also have a set of policy documents on their website which declares land reform to be a “political and moral imperative”.

      There is no getting away from the shadow that our past still casts on too many citizens. And every party is going to address that in some way.

      We shouldn’t be turning our back on these noble and necessary ideals. We should be insisting that government does it’s business cleanly and rejects approachs from the venal.

      THAT’s the real problem. BEE doesn’t push the price of brooms up to 280K. Corruption does.

    • Stephen Browne says:

      There’s not even the slightest, remotest chance that the problem was largely the massive corruption allowed by the ANC, not the actual idea of helping out those who need it? By your logic we should do away with everything the ANC tried rather than simply try to do it without stealing everything in sight. FYI Rise supports the concept of BEE, but proposes some changes to make it work from the bottom up rather than the reverse.

  • M E says:

    I want to know how all these “rich politicians” suddenly came into so much money. Very suspect…

    • Agf Agf says:

      A lot of them were given huge quantities of shares in big corporates which they sold at a massive profit. The shares they did not sell earned them huge dividends. Most of them did not do an honest days work to warrant these riches.

  • Fernando Moreira says:

    Really poor article about nothing again ,Rebecca ???

    Vote DA

  • Gordon Knight says:

    If the EFF got R35m more than expected from the taxpayers (or Treasury, as reported), how much do we actually pay to support them?

  • Just Me says:

    The Oppenheimers are the original state capturers. They are still trying to control the bus as far as it comes to influencing outcomes, just like oligarchs in the US or the UK.

    They are spreading their bets.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    I know little about politics and politicians except for how it affects my day-to-day life. But I do know about marketing, and the DA has done a really crappy job of that. Completely out of touch with the average unsophisticated voters, but have also lost the confidence of other donors. Meantime, the ANC will use MY money and yours to bus 5 million people to polls in May, buy each of them a t-shirt and a cap, and hand over a voucher for a Streetwise Two from KFC. EVen while Steenhuisen twiddles his thumbs and helplessly looks on.

  • Ingrid Kemp says:

    Rebecca is just stating facts. Since I first voted for the Progressive Party (just Helen Suzmann) and eventually the DA, I have been an avid supporter. I am also trying to be realistic and, what I see parties like Rise Mzansi doing, is working really hard & speaking to those less advantaged disenchanted folk & educating them on better options and, in many instances, convincing people to register & vote – particularly the youth who see no future in the existing options. While I may not have a final decision yet, we need to open our minds to other possibilities. Otherwise, I fear we will end up with more of the same.

  • Christopher Campbell says:

    Just wondering who Putin for the ANC. These medical emergencies to Moscow are not for the person going but obviously for the sick ANC coffers and to get their next scripts.

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