“If the state does not come to the party and fund political parties, as happens in other democratic countries, then they cannot force parties to disclose who their funders are,” Mthembu said on Tuesday.
He said the ANC would have “no qualms”’ about supporting the regulation of donations if the state was funding political parties.
“But until all of us feel comfortable that the state is funding democracy and democratic expression from the public purse… those who are calling for the regulation of donations to parties are dreaming.”
Mthembu was responding to mounting pressure for the regulation of donations to parties ahead of the 2014 election campaign.
DA leader Helen Zille has also rejected calls for transparency, saying the DA would introduce legislation forcing political parties to reveal their donors only when it “comes to power”, a statement described by the Council for the Advancement of the SA Constitution (Casac) as “disingenuous and disappointing”.
Casac chairman Sipho Pityana this week said the “toxic” subject of political party funding was contaminating politics and undermining the issues of accountability and transparency.
This, Pityana said, had been demonstrated in the recent controversies involving both the ANC and the DA.
The issue came under the spotlight after remarks by President Jacob Zuma at a fund-raising dinner last month that businessmen who supported the ANC would prosper, followed in short order by revelations that The New Age newspaper, owned by known ANC and Zuma benefactors the Gupta family, was receiving disproportionate advertising and sponsorships from the state.
DA leader Helen Zille was embroiled in controversy when it was claimed she had accepted a donation from the Guptas, despite criticising their cosy relationship with the ruling party.
She has denied that the money came from the family.
Casac pointed out that political parties had declared to the Cape High Court in 2005 in a case brought by Idasa that they would introduce appropriate legislation to regulate party funding, but had, to date, failed to abide by this promise.
The ANC had also, at its Polokwane conference in 2007, adopted policy positions in favour of the regulation of political party funding.
But Mthembu retorted that the ANC position “goes beyond narrow proposals”.
“The ANC has always been saying there are elements that need to be brought into this discourse.
“One of them is the sufficient funding of political parties from the public purse.”
Such funding should be done on the basis of the respective parties’ membership and electoral support, he said – and should cover up to 90 percent of their overhead costs.
“This is what happens in full democracies the world over – like the UK, the US and Scandinavia. Political parties and democracy are funded by the people.
“When you do not have that… when you are not funding them sufficiently, you cannot expect accountability on how they are being funded.”