25 March 2023 | 01:45 PM

Advocacy update: Constitutional Court vindicates amaBhungane’s legal strategy to ensure transparency in internal political party campaign funding

Key Takeaways

AmaBhungane is pleased with the decision handed down by the Constitutional Court yesterday in the matter of Public Protector and Others v President of RSA and Others as it relates to amaBhungane’s intervention as an interested party.

  • Read the full judgement here.

The Constitutional Court’s conclusion – that the high court had erred in dismissing amaBhungane’s arguments on a variety of ‘technical’ grounds without considering the merits of our case – vindicates our strategy in raising questions about the constitutionality of the Executive Members Ethics Code.

In its judgment, the top court considered the technical grounds that the high court used to dismiss our case and dismissed them all in turn.

AmaBhungane’s position from the outset was not to enter the dispute between the Public Protector and the President, nor into debates on the lawfulness of their conduct.

Rather, we made the argument that should it be determined that the Executive Members Ethics Code did NOT require disclosure of donations made to further candidates’ bid for positions within their political parties, then it was unconstitutional.

The Code currently requires members of the Executive to disclose financial interests, including gifts exceeding R350.

We argued that donations to internal campaigns creates an opportunity for private donors to exert undue influence on members of the executive – and if there is no disclosure requirement, there is no way for the public to know about such associations.

This stands in the way of their ability to exercise their voting rights with all relevant information, as well as the right to make a political choice freely.

The Constitutional Court decided not to provide a final ruling on these arguments, but instead referred this aspect of the case back to the high court for a fresh appraisal.    

The fight is not over – not by a long way.

The Constitutional Court’s order sending the matter back for a reconsideration of the merits provides a further opportunity for us to make a case for transparency in the funding of internal political party campaigns.

We will make our case for transparency again in the high court. We look forward to having an answer to the questions we raise when it is decided on the merits.

For now, we are pleased that the Constitutional Court has torn down the technical legal hurdles that prevented our case being decided.

We are also pleased that the Constitutional Court awarded costs in our favour, to be paid by the President, who had opposed our application.

For background on this matter, read:

Advocacy release: CR17 – court kicks transparency question into touch
Advocacy release: In CR17 case, amaB asks the court to uphold transparency

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Aisha Abdool Karim

Aisha is a freelance science and health reporter. She is joining the amaB team to work on a project about water and sanitation. Aisha’s passion for long-form narrative and investigative journalism was sparked while doing her master’s degree at Columbia University in New York. After graduating in 2018, she returned to South Africa and began working as a general beat reporter for the Daily Maverick. Aisha joined the Bhekisisa Centre for Health Journalism in 2020 to focus on science reporting. During her time there, she covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively — from fact-checking harmful medical misinformation to unpacking the science behind vaccine development. Aisha’s special interests include analysing health systems and in-depth coverage of public health issues and infectious diseases. She also loves spreadsheets and digging through data.

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