Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng delivered the Constitutional Court’s judgment on Thursday regarding the funding of political parties, coming to the conclusion that “information of private funding must be recorded, preserved and made reasonably accessible”.
Civil organisation My Vote Counts has won its attempt to get a declaratory order upholding a high court judgment that information on the private funding of political parties must be made publicly available.
The Constitutional Court confirmed a ruling by the Western Cape High Court, which found that the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) was unconstitutional because it did not provide for the disclosure of information pertaining to the private funding that political parties receive.
According to Mogoeng, the result of the case should be “a principle-based system that will objectively facilitate the meaningful exercise of the right to vote”.
Mogoeng continued that “the inbuilt capacity to sift the corrupt from the ethically upright is an indispensable requirement” of the voting system.
“For this reason, any information that completes the picture of a political party or an independent candidate in relation to who they really are or could be influenced by is essential for the proper exercise of the voter’s will on which our government is constitutionally required to be based.
“An environment must thus be created for the public to know more than what is said in manifestos or campaign trails” so they can make “an informed exercise of the right to vote”.
Mogoeng stressed that political parties and candidates must be “properly examined and found worthy to represent the electorate”, adding voters had the right to form a complete picture of who they are voting for and that “the proper exercise of this right is largely dependent on information”.
“For every citizen to be free to make a political choice, who to vote for et cetera. The information, including funding information, should be readily accessible,” Mogoeng found.
This sees a victory for nonprofit organisation My Vote Counts, who argued in the Constitutional Court that it was critical for voters to know who funded political parties, so that citizens could be informed to make the right decisions.
High Court judge Yasmin Shenaz Meer ruled last year that Parliament had 18 months to rectify the “inconsistencies” in the PAIA.
Mogoeng’s judgment today sees Meer’s ruling confirmed, in what many will consider a victory for transparency.