Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Political donations: how good or bad are they?

Donation 1: AngloGold Ashanti
At the time of writing, it was reported by Politicsweb that AngloGold Ashanti: Gold Mining and Marketing had just “approved the donation of a total of R4 million to a number of parties competing in South Africa’s 2009 general election”.

According to the report “AngloGold Ashanti donates R4m to political parties”:

  • African National Congress – the ruling political party since dispensation and democracy in 1994 – will receive R2, 000 000;
  • Democratic Alliance – the 1st opposition party – is expected to receive R800, 000;
  • Congress of the People – a newly formed party by former and disgruntle members of the ruling party, ANC – should expect R500, 000 in its bank account;
  • Inkatha Freedom Party – a prominently Zulu-dominant party – is expected to receive just R500, 000 on a silver palter; while
  • Independent Democrats – a women-formed and lead political party, first of its kindly, that comes to mind quickly – will receive at least R100, 000 which is not bad, and finally,
  • United Democratic Movement will be donated a R100, 000 just like that!

In justifying reasons for this donation, AngloGold Ashanti said (if not misquoted, you can never trust and believe what you read these days) this was:

  • To supper democracy rather than its own interests;
  • To promote political competing [just as long as such does not result in bloodshed, more name calling, and ethical conduct of such parties], public scrutiny of policy-making [even if the majority – member or not member of political parties – disagree with such, and just as long as the majority of the ruling parties agree], and exercise of executive power; and to encourage a policy-making environment in which there is a healthy and robust competition of ideas [though some in the ruling parties may have dismissed such.

A capacity to contribute meaningfully to democratic political debate, and to the generation of policy ideas for public consideration and choice; and a capacity to contribute constructively to building a culture of executive accountability and parliamentary oversight”, read AngloGold Ashanti’s statement as reported in Politicsweb today.

Donation 2: Standard Bank South Africa
Just over a week ago, it was reported by Politicsweb that Standard Bank South Africa is to “donated R5 million to political parties”.

Although the bank “had no policy of funding political parties until 2004, … it came under considerable pressure to reverse this policy – at the time when the ruling African National Congress was desperate for funds” wrote James Myburgh in Politicsweb’s “Standard Bank to donate R5m to political parties”.

Just two days later, SABMiller issued a statement announcing its “political notations”.

The Board has asked its South African subsidiary, SAB Ltd, to make a donation of R5 million, which will be distributed across the following six parties; the African National Congress party (ANC); the Democratic Alliance (DA); the Inkatha Freedom Party; the United Democratic Movement; the Independent Democrats; and the Congress of the People party (COPE)” read the statement.

Meyer Kahn, Chairman of SABMiller said in the statement that: “Great strides have been made in recent years to foster a vibrant, multi-party democracy in South Africa and SABMiller is proud to have made a contribution to that achievement. Political progress will remain vital to the country's continued stability and growth, and for that reason we believe it continues to deserve our support."

The SABMiller Board, read the statement, has decided that the group should provide funding to political parties in the forthcoming South African elections as part of the group's continuing commitment to encourage the development of a multi-party democracy in South Africa.

And Donation 3: MTN
As if that was not enough, though it must be encouraged, MTN Group issued a statement in which it makes known its Board of Directors’ approval, intention and decision of an “allocation of funding for political parties in relation to the general elections in South Africa on 22 April 2009

According to the statement, this approval was granted in line with MTN’s Code of Ethics and the Corporate Political Contributions Policy. “This disclosure [approximately R13 million] is made in accordance with MTN’s commitment to uphold good corporate governance practices.

“MTN's funding of political parties is made in support of democracy in South Africa” read the statement.

What happens after dotations, and more donations?
It can be hoped that if these donations are made in good fair and support and the promotion of ‘democracy in South Africa” as MTN said, and many other donors in support of the same principle – and then will indeed, strengthen the country’s democracy further that it is today, far better from what it was yester year.

If political donors think and dream that their donations will win them favours with the ruling parties, whichever it will be, this may well not be what South African had hoped and still hope for, a corrupt free government and administration.

Therefore, do not take advantage of the poor voters – who have since been promised a “Better Life For All” which has only been achieve by a few – and their “right to vote” for granted as they may one day not exercise their “right to vote” which will ultimately leave them in more poverty than they are today.

Finally, as for “how good or bad” political donations will or can be – this can only be determined by its motives: where for political connections or whatever reason may exist in the minds of those donation, and whether such donations are in the interest of the citizens’ democratic interests or not.

One can, but only, hope that these donations will strengthen and transform our democracy even further.

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