It has emerged that some provisions in the Political Parties Act will only take effect 12 months after the law commences on December 1 2018 pending the appointment of a Registrar of Political Parties.
Minister of Justice and Constitutional Affairs Samuel Tembenu announced December 1 as the commencement date for the new law which prescribes a new process of registering political parties, outlaws handouts and compels parties to disclose sources of financing.
However, only the handouts ban will come into effect on December 1 with the rest of provisions awaiting the appointment of the Registrar of Political Parties.
The new Political Parties Act establishes the Office of the Registrar of Political Parties whose appointment will be confirmed by Parliament’s Public Appointments Committee to give political parties a say in the process.
Tembenu and Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD), which championed the law, confirmed that the law says until a substantive office holder is appointed, the Registrar General will act as Registrar of Political Parties.
However, this begs the question as to whether political parties will be expected to comply with the new law when there is no office in place.
Political parties will only be obliged to declare their assets when the registration takes place in 12 months and then after every five years.
CMD executive director Kizito Tenthani said compliance with the law could be looked at in two ways, notably complying with the registration requirements and compliance in line with regulation of political parties.
He said: “All political parties that were registered under the Political Parties [Registration and Regulation] Act of 1993 are taken to be registered, but will be given 12 months from 1st December to comply with the new registration requirements as contained in the Political Parties Act of 2018.”
But Tenthani said political parties would immediately be required to declare donations exceeding K1 million if from individuals and those exceeding K2 million if from companies and stop giving out handouts.
However, with the absence of the Registrar of Political Parties to enforce the law, the Registrar General will rely on people reporting incidences of donations not declared or politicians giving handouts ahead of the elections.
Section 6(2)(f) of the Political Parties Act provides that the registrar “shall receive and investigate complaints received under this Act”.
On his part, Tembenu said while the Act in its present form is capable of implementation without additions, he could still promulgate regulations, especially relating to what may or may not constitute handouts.