#CR17 campaign funding and the changes in our politics

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This article first appeared on Creamer Media’s polity.org.za

Revelations of large sums donated to Cyril Ramaphosa’s campaign for the ANC presidency have shocked many. But this is part of the ANC’s trajectory from popular movement to the electoral machine. Large sums of money were not inevitable, but electoralism tends to remove political agency from the public, impoverishing our democracy.

I am not in a position to assess the legality of the CR17 campaign funding released in media leaks and arising from the Public Protector’s report into the Bosasa donation, that became much wider, revealing a broad range of contributors of large sums of money. It may be that other internal ANC campaigns, by others who became top leaders, raise similar issues. 

Many people, who are not conversant with what is going on in the ANC during elections, were shocked to hear of the enormous amounts spent in the Ramaphosa campaign, and the likelihood that the Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma campaign entailed similar costs, if not more.

This is what happens in campaigning in the United States, with anyone seeking not simply to be president, but to win her party’s nomination, needing to raise considerable sums of money. If that party nomination is secured, even more funding is required to win the presidency, especially with disparities between the popular vote and the final result in the US, due to the system of indirect voting through electoral colleges that led Donald Trump to be elected with significantly fewer votes than Hillary Clinton.

For some time, there have been allegations of vote-buying and branch-buying in the ANC, i.e. illegal ways of securing votes and winning elections on slates of candidates for positions. This is a time of large-scale poverty on the one hand and widespread corruption, state capture and patronage on the other. Ensuring election through the ANC at a variety of levels is very important for the economic wellbeing of people, including sheer survival through a relatively small councillor’s salary. At higher levels it may mean access to tenders or power to decide on these in favour of allies, making certain that procurement and other state contracts benefit some in great measure, rather than others.

The stakes have become very high and, we know, that this is linked to the large numbers of candidates and sitting councillors who have been assassinated or fear assassination, especially in KwaZulu-Natal.

There was an investigation into alleged vote-buying at the ANC Nasrec conference at the end of 2017, but it has not been alleged, thus far, to bear any relation to the Ramaphosa campaign or that Ramaphosa instigated such actions.

Nevertheless, even if such large amounts were spent on previous, relatively recent internal ANC elections, it was not publicly known. It may well be that all of this money was needed for running a campaign to rid the ANC and the country of the Jacob Zuma presidency and to avoid electing a person who was supported by those who wanted to continue the rule of Zuma by other means

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