About this site

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. It is the product of almost two decades of research and includes analyses, chronologies, historical documents, and interviews from the apartheid and post-apartheid eras.

26 Sep 1996: Felgate, Walter

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POM     Mr Felgate, let me first ask you, the constitution; in fact in the preamble to the constitution it states that South Africa is founded on the value of a multi-party system of democratic government. How would you define a multi-party system?

WF     A multi-party system is a system in which there is provision made in the Electoral Act for all parties who are registered as political parties to participate in elections, but more particularly provision should be made in the parliamentary system itself for the representation of parties in all standing and portfolio committee work and I believe that one should have a particular emphasis on the need to cater for minority parties who, even if they are minority parties, complete the process of being multi-party. Multi-partyism is enhanced when minority parties cohabit the political space of parliament with the major ruling party and the major opposition party.

POM     Would you equate or is there a difference between a multi-party system and an effective opposition?

WF     I really wouldn't draw exact distinctions. It's not a matter on which I have actually engaged my mind considerably. If you have got a system in which you've got a main opposition party and you've got a ruling party the tendency is for those two parties to dominate and for the ruling party in particular to dominate. If you have got a system in which the rules of parliament and the procedures of parliament lay down the necessity for all inclusiveness of all parties in everything one does then I think you have got by definition a better multi-party democracy.

POM     So that even if the combined weight of the opposition parties was, say, no more than 15% in parliament, you would have three or four parties with 5% or 6% or whatever, could you see that as an effective multi-party system or would there be some minimum threshold the opposition would have to reach before you could regard it as a truly multi-party system?

WF     Quite obviously a multi-party democracy in my thinking really is only a multi-party democracy when in the nature of the politics of the country concerned and the parliamentary system concerned there are frequent changes of ruling party and opposition party. Whatever the trappings have been in a number of states, particularly African states where you've had a ruling party ensconced for 30, 40 years at a time, the fact that there is an opposition party does not make it a multi-party democracy. So the crucial thing for me would be a situation in which the parties alternate between being parties in power and parties in opposition. If you haven't got a political system and you haven't got national circumstances which permit that then I don't think you've got circumstances which permit a multi-party democracy.

POM     How important is it to you as a member of the IFP that there be a strong multi-party system in South Africa?

WF     In South Africa particularly I think it's vitally important that we have a multi-party democracy. We have been witness to the growth of ruling party monopolies, not only in this country but in other African countries, and unless we can break that syndrome of political parties entrenching themselves in power and using their position as ruling parties to equate the good of the party with the good of the state and the good of the state with the good of the party, you are then in dire danger of losing the very heart of democracy.

POM     Do you think you can have a multi-party system in South Africa without there being political realignments?

WF     It's quite clear that there must be political realignments. The reality is that parties with roots in the 83% odd of the electorate who are black are limited. There is only the IFP and the ANC which qualify in that sense. The other parties, the DP, the National Party, Freedom Front, ACDP do not have real representation in black grassroots society. That is by, I think, all standards a dangerous situation for us to be in and you stand in danger in this country of developing into a de facto one-party state.

POM     What kind of political alliances or re-alliances or realignments could you envisage and do you think they will happen before the 1999 election or after the 1999 election?

WF     I think the prospect of there being realignments depends entirely on internal splits within parties. If you take the existing parties, the ANC on the one side forming one bloc with its allies and on the other side you have got all the other minority parties coming together, you still have got a huge imbalance in the party political distribution. So realignment would mean the readjustment of the internal forces inside the various parties and I believe that a political realignment can only come about and will in fact only come about, if it does come about at all, because there is, not splits within the ANC, National Party and IFP, but certainly if there is a movement towards recognition that the monopoly of power represented by the ANC as a party in power must be broken.

POM     Do you make a difference between what might be called a one-party democracy and a one-party state?

WF     I personally don't make a difference. To me there are in practice the same thing. A one-party state can go under various guises and one of the guises could be a one-party democracy. The notion of a one-party democracy being a democratic system depends upon the notion of there being an internal democracy in the ruling party and that by experience throughout Africa and the third world is wishful thinking, it doesn't happen.

POM     So if you had to characterise the current political situation here with the ANC being the very dominant party, almost in a sense the ruling party, even though the IFP remains part of the government of national unity it also admits that it doesn't have much influence over what goes on other than in the particular portfolios it occupies, would you be inclined to call South Africa now a one-party state or do you think it is leaning in that direction?

WF     I certainly think South Africa is leaning in that direction of a one-party state. We have got the dominance of the personality of Nelson Mandela but all indications, in my parliamentary experience, are that the ANC is moving ever more resolutely towards centrist politics, centrist control and when the felt need or public need to demonstrate multi-partyism in, for example, the government of national unity disappears after 1999 we will have powerful influences within the ANC who would like to centralise the power of the ANC around civil service structures, departmental arrangements, security arrangements, so that they end up being the only party effectively in control, the only party who could really win an election.

POM     So on a scale of one to ten where ten would represent a complete one-party state and one would represent a vibrant multi-party system, where would you place South Africa now and where would you just project it to be after the elections in 1999 assuming that there is no change in political realignments in the meantime?

WF     I think we occupy a position at five, but after 1999 there will be a jump upwards to a point of eight or nine. The 1999 elections will be a watershed event which as things now go are going to thrust the country into what really will be a one-party state.

POM     I've asked you this, that in a strong multi-party system can you have an effective opposition and essentially you said that you can't.

WF     No.

POM     Some of the yardsticks that are used to measure the efficacy of democracy, say particularly in the west, if a trade-off has to be made in South Africa between implementing the instruments of democracy more thoroughly, like accountability, responsibility, checks and balances, development of a multi-party system, or paying more attention to the needs of the country in terms of development whether housing, jobs, industry, foreign investment, where should the marginal stress be put?

WF     I think if you look at the prospects of economic growth in this country and you look at the present unemployment rate, if you look at the birth control figures, if you look at the population age distribution and you note that more than 50% of all black people are fifteen years and younger, there's a huge population bulge coming up. Unemployment must grow in real numbers and in comparative terms. There will be more people with no housing and no jobs. In those circumstances the greatest danger we face is for the ruling party, ruling dominant trade unions, to establish a kind of elitism which would leave the country very much worse off. The movement towards a true multi-party democracy is therefore of paramount importance to the future of the country and recovery from a position of poverty wherein and to reduce the backlogs and to break out of the straitjacket of past bad government we do not need gravitation towards a one-party state. We need as many checks and balances, we need as many pressures as possible from the legislature on the executive. The division between the legislative and executive is going to become increasingly important as the lure of power leads people to systems of political patronage in which the survival of a party doesn't depend on delivery to the people but on the producers and ensconce leadership which then runs the party and the country to their own benefit.

POM     So to those who would say too much emphasis on democracy, on checks and balances and procedures and processes simply slows down getting things done and what we need is more urgency and more swiftness with which we tackle issues, what would you say to those people?

WF     I don't quite follow the question.

POM     It would be that the more democracy you have, the more accountability you have and the more checks and balances you have and the more discussion and consultation you have, the longer it takes to get things done and that it slows down the process of getting major works under way in order to deal with the backlogs in housing and other social activities.

WF     I don't believe that one is looking at the future of the country being determined only by major political forces. If you have got a situation that we face, the informal market is fundamentally important. Informal economics must really make a contribution to the well-being of people. If you've got a system in which you've got the checks and balances and at the top you have this earlier or shorter term slow down because there are too many checks and balances, too many consultations needed, in the longer term I think there are benefits that such a system would have in fostering informal economy or to some extent the slowness of development and also however one looks at it it's even a longer term gain which one must aim at and if you look at the greater degree of consultation in true multi-partyism I believe that you are going to have longer term gains which would not otherwise be there. Otherwise we face a situation in which the developing economic poverty of the country is going to lead to backlashes, backlashes are going to lead to a greater degree of autocracy and you're going to have a greater degree of centralisation, a greater degree of power-mongering and survival by the employment of power, not by the employment of democratic norms.

POM     So on a scale again of one to ten, when you look at the whole range of issues facing South Africa, where would you place the need to develop a strong multi-party system where one would be the lowest end of the scale and ten would be the highest end?

WF     I would put it right at the top of the scale, eight, nine.

POM     How about the funding of political parties? I think the constitution also provides that, "Financial and administrative assistance to each political party represented in the Assembly in proportion to its representation to enable each party and its leaders to perform its function in the Assembly effectively." And Chapter 14 Section 236, "To enhance multi-party democracy national legislation must provide for the funding of political parties participating in national and provincial legislatures on an equitable and proportional basis." What's your understanding of what those two clauses mean?

WF     They are a lot of words. I believe that if you have MPs and caucuses in parties in parliament who are not empowered you are not going to have a real democracy. Democracy means the capacity of the ordinary MPs to check and control the executive and they can only do that if they've got a degree of competence, they can only have that competence if they are empowered and if they are given the financial assistance that they need.

POM     You were talking about the responsibility of the government to empower smaller parties with financial assistance to allow them to participate in a viable way in the parliamentary system and the political life of the country.

WF     I wouldn't say the smaller parties, all parties, major parties included, because unless you have got a system, for instance your parliamentary caucus is empowered because the caucus itself has members on all the portfolio committees or standing committees and they exercise real checks and restraints over the executive and make sure that the parliamentary system is driven by the legislature not by the executive, that's a matter that applies to all parties, not only to minority parties. And if you don't have all parties supported financially you won't have the individual MPs in all parties empowered.

POM     Since the constitution recognises a multi-party system of government, what specific responsibilities does the state have to ensure that there is an effective functioning multi-party system?

WF     I have some difficulty in actually conceptualising that the state - we're talking about the state?

POM     Not the state, the government.

WF     The government of the day?

POM     Yes.

WF     The government of the day has an enormous responsibility to empower MPs, the parliamentary system as such, the running of departments, the delivery of benefits to the people from parliament all depend on effectiveness in government. Effectiveness in government must be enhanced if you have got a government that actually empowers its members to participate in government. So the state or the ruling party or the government must play a vital role in developing the capacity of parliament to govern and to deliver to the people.

POM     What do you think this means in terms of the public funding of political parties, given again that the constitution does provide for some form of public funding of political parties?

WF     I think one must answer that question in terms of what needs to be done to empower individual MPs and to empower caucuses. Unless a caucus has a research staff available to it, a secretarial staff available to it, unless it is equipped with computers and modern aids of other kinds, as a caucus it's not going to be able to play a role. Unless you have got MPs who are supported by a secretarial staff and again by a computerised background and can have the necessary flow of information, you are not going to have meaningful participation by MPs in the whole process of government. So whether you're talking about the caucus or you're talking about individual members, effective government must rest on the empowerment of MPs. In our circumstances particularly that means empowerment must be undertaken by the state or the government of the day.

POM     Through financial assistance to the parties?

WF     There are two options. One is to make allocations of finances to parties and budget control on the expense and accountability for the way money is spent and/or the development of centralised facilities in the parliamentary system which all parties can use for their benefit.

POM     Would you make a distinction between the public funding or a form of public funding for offices in parliament which you have really talked about, the MPs and the caucuses, for the political parties themselves so that they can develop an adequate infrastructure to develop and expand the constituencies and political funding or some form of political funding for elections?

WF     It's quite clear that we have to develop a culture of multi-partyism and a culture of democracy in a country. We come from a background where the dominant forces in politics have been either an oppressive government or opposition parties who were fighting liberation battles. The idiom of a multi-party democracy is very different and we have to develop that culture. Unless the MPs are supported and a system of parliamentary accountability to the electorate on the one hand runs parallel with accountability of the executive to the legislature, we are not going to develop that culture of democracy we need. So I believe a multi-party system would depend on the state actually funding both the political parties as such in parliamentary work in their outreach and their accountability to the people in terms of constituency allowances to enable MPs to run constituency offices as well as on the financing of MPs to do their parliamentary work.

POM     How about elections, the financing of elections?

WF     Financing of elections is for me far more problematic because unless a party can gather money for election purposes it hasn't developed the image nor has it developed the political strength that it would need to win an election, or to do well in an election. You could fund a bad party with a lot of money and you would have a distorted result in terms of election figures and party political strength and support.

POM     Would you be in favour of there being no governmental support of electioneering at all or that there should be some minimum base of support that the government should provide to all parties, some flat amount perhaps that would allow smaller parties who would have difficulty in raising money to get their message out if nothing else?

WF     I don't believe that you should have the funding of political parties for election campaigns.

POM     You don't believe in that?

WF     No.

POM     What is the present system of how political parties fund themselves?

WF     There is no central government funding of election campaigns. Political parties have to rely on donations and financial support from people they persuaded that they are worth backing.

POM     But there are no limits are there on what an individual can give or what a company can give?

WF     There are no limits that I know of.

POM     And there are no limits on even, I think, the Taiwan investment for example, or on overseas governments making contributions to particular political parties?

WF     There are no limits at the moment.

POM     Would you like to see limits? What do you think is the best way for political parties to be funded, particularly for election purposes?

WF     Quite obviously in ideal terms if you cut out all foreign funding for political parties and political parties survived on what they could raise in their own society you would have a healthy system. Whether or not in a transitionary phase one needs outside funding to get parties up and running is a separate question.

POM     So would you be in favour of limits being put on the amounts that individuals could give or that companies could contribute or do you think that's a private matter between the individual or the company and the political party?

WF     I think that's a private matter and there should not be any limits put on it. I think there should be a moratorium on overseas funding but I think there should be a sunset clause on that issue so that once one gets through, for instance, the second election then thereafter parties should make their way on the financial support they can get from within the country.

POM     So you would say that even though you belong to a party that vis-à-vis said the ANC would be at a more severe disadvantage in terms of raising money internally just because of their existing comparative strength at the moment?

POM     Continuing my interview with Walter Felgate from the previous side of the tape.

POM     The last question I had asked you Mr Felgate yesterday, was as I recall you said you were opposed to the public funding of political campaigns in any manner, shape or form and my question was that even though this would appear to favour the stronger parties, particularly say at least nationally a party with the dominance of the ANC, you still wouldn't want any public mechanism in place that would level the playing field so to speak when it came to election time?

WF     No I don't believe that political parties should actually be protected in any way whatsoever. Empowered yes but protected no. When it comes to the question of financial assistance, the financial assistance that a party can gain in the normal course of its fund-raising is one thing, but to have a state fund an election campaign means funding parties which have not made the grade in a market place and have not got the strength to gather the support to fight an election. That's part of the tests of the viability or the relevance of a party.

POM     But if you were a party that has say a 4% share of the electorate you're not going to attract much financial help from the private sector. What recourse does a party in that situation have to increase its financial support base and its electoral support base since one is really dependent upon the other?

WF     I just believe that a political party that is so irrelevant that it achieves a 4% electoral result deserves the lack of support that that 4% indicates it should be receiving. Political parties are in a big league when it comes to election, they must play the big league game, they either make it or they don't make it. If you've got a situation in which the society at large is tolerating and producing a one-party state that's where the problem lies. It doesn't lie in the electoral system and I don't think you can remedy the matter, it's a socio-political factor and society is going to get the government it deserves and there is no way out of that.

POM     In the absence of any public funding of political parties in the broad sense of the term, how do you think you develop a viable, strong multi-party democracy?

WF     One can't develop that artificially. One can lay choices before the electorate. If the electorate choose to move towards a dominant one-party state then so be it and we've got to go through the crisis that that would produce. There's no short cut to it. You can't avoid tapping the wisdom of the electorate via rigging smaller parties, making them more important than the electorate want them to be.

POM     Can you point to any country that you would regard as democratic but where one party really dominates the politics completely?

WF     One will have to rack one's brains. You had the Thatcher period, you had that kind of development.

POM     Like, say, in Japan where you had elections but essentially since the second world war there had been no transfer of power since the second world war, or since it started having elections.

WF     I can't comment on that because I'm not a student of Japan.

POM     Well not Japan, but are there any countries that just quickly come to mind?

WF     No, there's no country that comes to mind.

POM     On the issue of disclosure you also believe that foreign countries shouldn't be allowed to contribute or that should be phased out?

WF     I believe that during a transitionary period foreign aid to get democracy off the ground is a necessary thing and if parties, smaller parties attract support from the international community then one has to accept that but to place a moratorium on it, and I would say the second election after the new constitution should be completely free of foreign financial aid.

POM     Now when you say free of foreign financial aid do you mean aid from foreign governments or from foreign individuals or from foreign companies?

WF     From all foreign sources. If a foreign company has relevance in the country they will have local outlets through which they could fund an election campaign.

POM     We touched on this yesterday, but should there be any limitation on the amounts that companies and individuals can contribute to a political party or should it be uncapped?

WF     I've got no criteria in mind and I can't think of any criteria for saying what the level should be and I'm not convinced that there should be a level and there probably should not be a level because there is no objective criteria you can adopt because it would be arbitrary, it mustn't be beyond twenty or a million or a hundred million, whatever you say, it's an arbitrary, irrational approach and indicates that there is no rationality behind the limitation.

POM     When we talked yesterday I asked you how important the development of a strong multi-party system was and you accorded that a very high priority. On the issue of public financing, or just generally the financing of elections, is that something that you have given much thought to or the party has given much thought to or is that really a side issue, something that is only coming into your mind now that I'm asking you questions about it?

WF     No, from the IFP point of view it has been a matter of grave concern. We have had many millions of rands poured in Kagiso Trust, into various church, SACC related projects, all of which have been highly political, they have been to the great disadvantage of IFP and we have seen how foreign funding can actually intervene in the local political market place and rig local politics. So we've given that a lot of thought and it's not because it's sour grapes we don't get it, we've just seen at first hand the danger of how foreign aid pouring into a volatile political situation can distort the politics of the country.

POM     Again, because I want to be quite clear, if you take the IFP nationally, as an example, and take the ANC, the ANC very much in power, very few observers believe that it won't be returned to power in 1999 whether with a reduced percentage or not is a question of speculation, but the obvious thing would be that companies and individuals like to contribute to the party in power particularly when they think it will be returned to power. Do you not think this puts the IFP at an unfair disadvantage?

WF     I'm not thinking about the IFP's party political advantage or disadvantage. The questions are relating about the nature of society and the evolution of multi-party democracy and I don't believe that funding elections is going to hasten the advent of true multi-party democracy as a way of life. The IFP has got to make its own way and unless its relevance is proven by local support it's not going to survive or stand any test of time and we're heading for a one-party state. If that is the case then we've got to go through that whole long process of going into a one-party state, a de facto or real one party state and the country will have to burn its fingers and have to come to its senses as countries across Africa are having to do.

POM     In the case of where financial support would be given for parliamentary work, for outreach, for constituency offices and the like, which you had mentioned yesterday you would be in favour of, if money is given in that sense to political parties by the government to sustain other parties in that effort should there be a legal requirement that the parties account for the manner in which they dispose of such funds?

WF     I believe there should be legal requirements. At the moment the constituency allowance, for instance, which is given to parties I believe hasn't got a rigorous enough approach to accountability, how that money is used, and I think that is wrong. If you are funding parties to make democracy work, if you're funding parties to make a parliamentary system relevant to the people, if you funding parties to get an interaction between the electorate and the institutions of government, then I think you are fostering the background, the climate, the mind-set which will culminate in a multi-party democracy. But if you're using parliamentary funds to further the aims or the objectives of individual leaders or factions of a party then I think you are doing the country a disservice.

POM     So you would be in favour of pretty strict accounting for the use of whatever funds are given to parties to ensure that the funds were actually spent for the purposes for which they were given in the first place?

WF     Very much so provided always that the criteria for deciding what is right and wrong in spending are clearly set and are reached by multi-party agreement.

POM     Can you think of any arguments at all in favour of public financing of political campaigns?

WF     Yes, there are answers in favour of it. Firstly, your ability to put a clear message to the electorate depends on the money to run a media campaign. A media campaign is expensive and small parties who have not got that money are at a disadvantage. So, yes, there are advantages for a democracy if parties are funded in a campaign. All I'm suggesting is that on balance the disadvantages far outweigh the advantages and there is nothing that one can do to short-circuit a process in which the population of any country actually gets the government it deserves. And that is a bottom line reality which we've got to live with and we can't do anything about that.

POM     Do you think that if public money were dispensed in this way to political campaigns or in a broader sense to political parties, that the public would see it as one more example of a gravy train in operation?

WF     I don't think that's a very real factor. It's like mother-in-law jokes, they make jokes about it, but I don't think it's a real political factor and it's not going to affect the voting patterns of an electorate.

POM     How real do you see the possibility here in South Africa of South Africa becoming an at least de factor one-party state?

WF     I think there are very real prospects of it. In all situations where a powerful government, a government in a powerful position, is faced with electoral backlashes it's tendency is to increase bureaucratic restraints on those backlashes, the tendency is to centralise, the tendency is to act more god-like and believe that the ruling party has got all the wisdom and it will have to have the time and the latitude to fix things its own way and there is a growth towards centralism and autocracy.

POM     In the local elections recently one civil servant told me that the non-statutory parties received financial assistance to bring them up to speed in terms of technical aid and things like that. Did the IFP receive any financial assistance?

WF     Not one cent, no.

POM     Did any of the parties to your knowledge receive anything?

WF     I know of no parties receiving anything that I know of. We didn't receive one cent and I don't know of any party that did.

POM     So again on the list of priorities, when it comes to the use of the country's resources and you can't put public resources into developing a strong multi-party system or public resources into the delivery of services and provision of more houses and the like, on the marginal rand where would you put it?

WF     You'd have to distribute that money evenly between the two endeavours. Delivery is important, important for democracy not only for the people. If there is no delivery there is a suspicion of government, there is criticism of government and there is likely to be some kind of cowboy politics which will creep in. The other question of making democracy work and the multi-party system work is vitally important and I think delivery and the development of multi-partyism is important and it's not a matter of either/or, it's a matter of how best to share the cake between the two.

POM     What should the government be doing to foster a strong multi-party system?

WF     Make parliament relevant to the people. That's I think the biggest issue. We've got a proportional representation system which tends to cut parliamentarians off from constituencies and less accountable to constituencies and that's a pity. On the other hand because of the need to foster minority parties and small parties and to give them the objective circumstances in which they can gain strength, proportional representation it is absolutely essential because it does favour minority parties, but it comes with a disadvantage and we must offset that disadvantage and parliamentary empowerment of MPs and political parties, outreach to constituencies and accountability to constituencies all hang together.

POM     Again on a scale of one to ten, one being where it's not very important and ten where it's very important, where would you put the whole debate about the public financing of political parties and of elections?

WF     Probably somewhere around midway on that scale.

POM     When you look at a multi-party system are there certain features, do you think, that are indispensable to a multi-party system?

WF     Features of society or features of electoral system or features of what?

POM     Certain characteristics that the electoral system or the governance system must have in the absence of which one can say that it truly has a multi-party, or an effective multi-party system.

WF     I'm taking time to think about that. You've got continua of various kinds and it's not a black or white issue. Multi-partyism is ultimately the finest form of defence of democracy, but if you haven't got an electorate which is seeking that democracy and backing democracy your multi-partyism is therefore threatened. In our own country if you've got the idiom of liberation politics still persisting into your second election or your third election, it's likely that it will persist right into the third election, you've got a militant force against multi-partyism. The whole Truth Commission is basically, or very much, an attempt to keep the politics of liberation alive and well because it's under-pinning the power base of the ANC. So you can't offset that. If an electorate is going to go through the process falling prey to that kind of propaganda then the electorate has got to go through that process, there is no short-cut to multi-partyism and you can't produce it by artificial means. It's a product finally of the kind of parliamentary system, the electoral system you've got, but it's also very much a product of the demands of an electorate and the need for people to see that vested interests of individuals and groups are supported by multi-partyism and not by one-party states, and that's a process we've still got to go through.

POM     How about the media? You talked about the importance of the media in a party being able to project its message to the public. Do you think there should be the allocation of free media time to political parties so they can project their political messages, particularly during political campaigns, or that the media should be strictly, again, on a paid basis?

WF     I believe media should be on a paid basis. Again it's the same kind of considerations; should the smaller parties, the weaker parties, be given assistance to have a relevance beyond the support base that they have got amongst the electorate? And the answer, I think, is no. Your media tend to report what the view of people is about parties and in that sense left to its own the media is a gauge. Monopolies in media ownership and management are of course a problem, but that's another problem altogether. But given a free media, given the freedom of the press, let the press reflect what the state of the parties is. Again, money is an issue. There is no doubt about it that money is needed for electoral purposes, for campaign purposes, lots of money is needed and small parties need proportionately more money than the larger parties. But you can't do that artificially. Ultimately the electorate must provide that money because the parties are beginning to show a relevance to the needs of the electorate and that's what the small parties have got to fight for, they have got to establish their relevance and make their programmes a commodity that the voters and institutionalised South Africa want.

POM     How about when it comes to radio and television, very expensive media outlets? Should all parties be given some minimum access to radio and television before elections which then could be augmented by paid media, or should again there be no free access to the media, period?

WF     I think there should be no free access to media, period, provided that state controlled media is rigorously controlled. If there is a pattern of reporting by state controlled media which supports the party in power, which will always be the case, then you have got an artificial support of a political party and a disadvantageous advantage. So in terms of allocation of time there should be rigorous watchdogs over media reporting if the media is state controlled. If it's not state controlled then you, I think, are part of the market forces at play and some market forces don't always act in the best interests of minority parties. But you can't do anything about that. That's part of the nature of society, it's part of the reality around you and you've got to suffer through that.

POM     On the issue of disclosure, should political parties be required to reveal the sources of their financing, the amounts they receive from individuals, the amounts they receive from corporate outlets, the amounts they receive from overseas if that is still allowed by law?

WF     No I don't believe that there should be disclosure necessities particularly because when it comes to funding minority parties, donors of any national or international significance would not like to be seen to be contributing to the opposition so disclosure limits the support that opposition campaigns will get. If you are going to have a situation in which multi-partyism depends and relies on opposition parties then you should not place restrictions on that rising of minority parties. We have got a particular insight into that because there are many people who would want to assist the IFP but refrain from doing so because if their assistance became known then they feel there would be backlashes either from government or from the ANC as such.

POM     On the whole question of financing of political parties, am I correct in saying you really favour a free market system? That if you have the support then you will ultimately be able to raise the amount of financial support commensurate with the public support, that no special break should be given to any political party?

WF     That's basically the idea.

POM     It should be all in private hands, not in public hands, that the only public function is to ensure that parties can carry out their duties within parliament and that fostering a strong multi-party system depends more on making parliament relevant to the workings of government than to the manner in which political parties are financed?

WF     That about sums it up, yes.

POM     OK.

This resource is hosted by the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, but was compiled and authored by Padraig O’Malley. Return to the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory site.