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Party funding issue heads for ConCourt

My Vote Counts says the absence of information undermines citizens’ constitutional right to vote.

The DA's Helen Zille, South African President Jacob Zuma (ANC) and EFF leader Julius Malema. Pictures: AFP.

JOHANNESBURG - My Vote Counts on Monday launched a legal bid in the Constitutional Court to compel Parliament to adopt laws forcing political parties to disclose the identities of their private donors.

The rights group says the absence of adequate and accurate information about each party's funders undermines citizens' constitutional right to vote.

A study by the Open Society Foundation estimates that private funding of political parties in the 2009 election stood at about R550 million, an amount exceeding the R94 million set aside by the state for parties.

My Vote Counts Director Axolile Notywala argues funding enables parties "to exercise an electoral influence, stronger than the single vote of every woman and man, who comprises the electorate."

Speaking on Redi Tlhabi Show on Monday, researcher Karabo Rajuili said the figure relating to private funding is superseding the figure parties get from public funding.

"Private funding is creating a situation of political inequality in our country. On the one hand, in a country like South Africa where there is such a vast income disparity between the very wealthy and the very poor, the very wealthy are asserting undue influence on political parties."

She says although parties have no obligation to disclose the information, South Africans have the right to know who is influencing our vote.

Rajuili adds private funders are eroding our ability as ordinary citizens to participate in democracy.

She says the organisation believes Parliament should discuss regulations that would be suitable to our particular democracy to develop a more open and accountable system of governance.

Calls were made last year for parties to reveal the identities of their donors after the ANC threatened to end its relationship with FNB when the bank aired an advert criticising the ruling party.