Anti-Graft Drive Chokes South African Ruling ANC’s Poll Funding

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has been forced to scale back its campaigning ahead of upcoming municipal elections because it has run short of cash. 

“We will have to tighten the belt,” Paul Mashatile, the party’s treasurer-general, said in an interview on Thursday.  “We will do what is economically affordable to us.”

Anti-Graft Drive Chokes South African Ruling ANC’s Poll Funding

The municipal vote was originally scheduled for October, but the electoral commission wants to delay it until February next year, after a probe headed by a retired judge found that the coronavirus pandemic and associated curbs may undermine its credibility. The Constitutional Court, the nation’s top legal tribunal, is currently considering whether to permit a postponement. 

The ANC, which has ruled South Africa since white-minority rule ended in 1994, aims to reclaim control of several major cities that it lost to the opposition five years ago. It will rely more heavily on the use of social media and door-to-door campaigning if the pandemic eases, while cutting back on spending on posters and t-shirts for supporters, according to Mashatile.

The ANC’s fund-raising efforts have been hampered by a new disclosure law that was aimed at curbing graft but has deterred corporates from donating. The Political Party Funding Act, which came into effect in April, requires all contributions to political parties exceeding 100,000 rand ($6,701) to be publicly disclosed, and forbids parties from accepting more than 15 million rand a year from a single donor. 

A number of the party’s personnel went on strike on Thursday because they hadn’t been paid for several months. “It is totally unacceptable that we have been made scapegoats for the organization’s financial mismanagement,” the ANC’s staff representative committee said in a statement. 

Mashatile said the party wants to halve its 18 million rand monthly wage bill by reducing its full-time staff and is considering several proposals to raise money, including increasing membership fees and embarking on a crowd-funding campaign. 

“The problem up to now has been that we have been very reliant on donor funding,” he said. “More than 70% of our income comes from private companies, so we want to try and change this a bit by saying to the members that we expect you as members and supporters to pay a bit more.”

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