Germans help underpin democracy in SA

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At the end of the independent Helderberg election campaign against Minister Chris Heunis in 1987, which I had launched as an individual without the benefit of party funds, and which some people will remember we lost by 39 votes, I found myself responsible for a major debt.

And with my good friend Dave Gant, who played a significant role in the campaign, we decided to approach a prominent German businessman whom we knew to be sympathetic to our cause and who had a farm in the constituency. As he was one of our last hopes of winding up the campaign financially, it was with some anxiousness that we approached him. He invited us to meet with him in the late afternoon outside his wine cellar where he proudly produced a bottle of new wine, the merits of which Dave persisted in appreciatively discussing with him at undue length – to me seemingly oblivious of why we were there.

Probably recognising our nervousness, our host suddenly said: “Gentlemen, what can I do for you?” We began to explain when he laughingly interrupted us: “But gentlemen, that’s not a problem. In Germany, we pay for our politics. How much do you need? And can I put it down to advertising?” The rest of the evening went dazzlingly.

What our benefactor was referring to are the party-political foundations in Germany. These are state-subsidised, and therefore taxpayer-supported political foundations that are affiliated with political parties represented in the federal parliament. At present, there are six such foundations, with the oldest going back to 1925. All of them are at present active in South Africa.

The value of these organisations from an international and therefore South African point of view is that they promote and assist developing democracies to grow and modernise – by providing political education andtraining in the form of workshops, seminar or conferences as well as commissioning and later disseminating relevant research.

An excellent example of their enhancing input is a publication under the title Political Parties in South Africa: Do they Undermine or Underpin Democracy? which has just been released by the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung/Foundation. Kas, named after the first democratically elected Chancellor after World War Two, was created in 1955 and is affiliated with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), it is very active in South Africa and this publication is very much to its credit.

Edited by Heather Thuynsma of the University of Pretoria, with a preface by former President Kgalema Motlanthe, and featuring a cross-section of 14 top presenters on critical aspects of the South African party system, this is a very valuable publication for all persons interested in the South African political system and its promise of democratic government. As Dr Holger Dix, a former resident representative in South Africa, says in a foreword: “The party system in South Africa is moving. The finding that was still valid until very recently, namely that a democratic party system had established itself in South Africa for an unforeseeable period, no longer applies.” That is certainly the case and this publication develops the theme and spells out what is needed. Highly recommended.

Dr Denis Worrall is the founder of The Cape Messenger

Editor’s Note: Political Parties in South Africa is available from Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung; contact:

Christina Teichmann – Project Manager

E-mail: christina.teichmann@kas.

+27 21 422 3844

Nancy Msibi – Project Manager

E-mail: Nancy.Msibi@kas.de               Ph:  +27 11 214 29 00

 

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