FILE PICTURE: Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa - ANC Representative....
Earlier this month, City Press
reported that some of the biggest state- owned companies were paying millions of rands to bankroll the business breakfasts hosted by the Gupta family.
These included Transnet, Telkom and Eskom.
It was previously reported that Telkom had sponsored 12 business breakfasts to the tune of R12 million in the 2012/13 financial year, according to the newspaper.
Following the report, DA leader Helen Zille pulled out of a TNA breakfast, saying that she did not know it had been sponsored with public funds.
Zille said she had written to President Jacob Zuma asking for a commission of inquiry to be appointed into the funding of the paper.
“We believe that the information we have collected so far represents more than sufficient evidence to warrant a full judicial commission of inquiry into the government’s funding of The New Age,” she said.
Zille added that such an investigation should establish precisely how much of The New Age’s revenue was derived from the state, as well as the legality of using public money to fund a pro-government newspaper that was ostensibly started by a benefactor of Zuma and the ANC.
Political analyst Ralph Mathekga said yesterday that at the heart of the row was the question of the secret funding of political parties.
“There needs to be more effort to ensure that there is disclosure as to which companies fund which political parties,” said Mathekga. “Voters deserve to know this information so that companies do not capture political parties through... donations.”
Disclosure of party funding is the way to go, say experts
Fabian Scherer, political analyst at Political Analysts South Africa, said that as long as parties were not obliged to disclose the origin of their private donations, they were operating in a "disadvantageous catch-22 situation".
According to Martins, the current lack of legislation makes it difficult to examine if private donations are being accompanied by a shady kickback for the donor.
Anonymous party funding "contributes to the reduction of confidence in the democracy," said Martins, and Kilian said it directly undermined the democratic process.
"Buying off government politicians by cash or kind in government has become a way of life. The more bribes [the politicians] get, the more money they can spend on patronage and expensive election campaigns to stay in power," she said. In her opinion, "an entire new regime of party political funding is needed. There is just too much chicanery going on and transparency must become institutionalised."
Mametlwe Sebei, founding member of the newly-formed Workers and Socialist Party (WASP), said his party undertook to fully disclose its funding details.
"We are going to be absolutely transparent [about who donates to our party] and we are going to fight for all parties to be transparent," he said.
Whilst WASP did not intend on taking a "morally purist" point of view and would not reject endowments from small businesses, it would not canvas any big businesses for money, he said. Rather, it would rely on the donations of its working-class members.
"It is the only way we can keep ourselves pure from corruption," said Sebei.
When queried about the ANC's policy on party funding disclosure, ANC spokesperson Jackson Mthembu said that he could not comment on queries of a "financial nature". ANC treasurer general Zweli Mkhize was not available for comment.
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