Anglo – American, which has mining interests in Botswana, is one of the biggest financiers of the Botswana Democratic Party in what may be an attempt to buy influence. This is the conclusion of a study conducted recently in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries by the Institute for Security Studies based in Cape Town.
In an environment where party financing, particularly private funding, is generally a laissez faire business as in most of Southern African countries, there is a real risk of interest groups and wealthy individuals buying influence in political parties and, in so doing, erode public confidence in the political systems.
The study states that, while political parties are necessary conduits for political pluralism, they are major avenues of corrupting this process resulting in biases in public policy, differential policies toward businesses, criminal and drug money, vote buying and patronage, buying positions on party lists and nominations and illegal use of state resources.
There is, therefore, a need for adequate system of rules for the funding of political parties, which should improve the quality of opportunity for all parties competing in an election, rather than work against it. Public funding should, therefore, ideally favour no political parties.
The study states further that public funding, however, is rarely adequate. As a result, donations of various types, corruption kickbacks and returns on business investments are prominent sources of income for Southern African political parties.
“If public funds are insufficient, from the view point of parties, the candidates incentives will be created to increase them either by means of private legal resources or by illegal means, by creating private companies whose profit are channeled to finance the party, therefore, the insufficiency of funds raises the possibility of illegal and immoral conducts,”the study has revealed.
The example of the Botswana Democratic Party reveals the financial support from the South African Anglo American Corporation, which has massive mining interests in the country.
In South Africa, where the public funding of political parties has steadily been on increase since the elections of 1994 it is well known that huge foreign contributions were key to the African National Congress (ANC) campaign funds for the 1994, and 1999 elections. 50-80 per cent of all political parties campaign funds came from either business or foreign donors.
The study reveals that the problem of party and candidate financing in Southern African, and anywhere else for that matter, essentially stems from the very limited supply of party and candidates resources, which usually generate uneven access to and excessive reliance on private sources of income for political purposes.
“The search for funds may induce politicians to listen more to those who give to their campaigns than those who vote for them or for their party,” the research has noted.