Full transparency needed around income received by MPs

Full transparency needed around income received by MPs

  • Cape Times
  • 3 Jul 2017

MORE transparency is required, now more than ever, to stop state capture and process capture.

That the Constitutional Court has ruled that politicians should be allowed to vote in a secret ballot so as to allow a vote of conscience, thus stopping voting on party political instructions, is warmly welcomed.

Speaking to fellow grassroots civil society members on Friday, June 23, we, however, found it laughable how the likes of the Hon James Selfe MP can be 1) cheering the ruling, and 2) supporting the call by the Hon Leigh-Ann Mathys MP for South Africans to write to parliamentarians asking them to vote on conscience and not along party instructions, as he surely knows that his colleagues in the Western Cape (WC) Provincial Government, and the City of Cape Town, object to the same being applied in City Council and WC Legislature.

This hypocrisy by Selfe is, however, no laughing matter, seeing that when Capetonians did the same to his colleagues in City Council, regarding our opposition to development on the Philippi Horticultural Area, and at Uitkamp (agricultural land in Durbanville), his political party prohibited their councillors to listen to their constituencies, and forced them to vote along party instructions that supported developer plans that threaten Cape Town’s sensitive breadbaskets. The cosy relationship between the City, province and developers is of great concern to Cape Town-based civil society activists.

Even public participation is under threat of process capture, where we need to see the auditor-general review the process, and also audit political party funding and pronounce on any conflicts of interest and possible risks to the process, which is one of the main pillars of our democracy.

While we in grassroots civil society celebrated a long and hard-fought victory, in the recent announcement by the Hon Jackson Mthembu MP that the ruling national party will be placing legislation before national parliament that requires full transparency around party political funding, the ruling by the Constitutional Court now will surely require even more transparency than ever before to make sure that a secret ballot is not exploited by capital.

As the spectre of state capture and process capture looms large, without any regulatory safeguards, a secret ballot opens up even more loopholes for said capture by capital interest groups to take place. What we thus now need is transparency around all income received by politicians, including that they release their tax returns for public consumption. This will assist the SA Revenue Service (Sars) to undertake targeted lifestyle audits where any discrepancies appear.

I recently requested my ward councillor to inform our civic AGM what his telephone allowance was, and to reveal if his allowance was used in only fulfilling his ward duties. I was met with a stony silence. Clearly, this is a job for Sars to investigate, where standard tax audits of all elected politicians should be par for the course.

This, however, is a more reactive step, where a more proactive solution, considering the real threat of process capture and state capture even in Cape Town and the Western Cape, is for Mthembu, Selfe and Mathys to propose a bill that allows for full income and tax return disclosure by all elected politicians at all levels of government, for public consumption.

Lester September Chairperson: Steering Committee Forum of Cape Flats Civics