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City of Banjul
Sunday, September 27, 2020

Stop politicisation of charitable causes in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic

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By Solomon Demba

Since the outbreak of the deadly Covid-19, there appears to be a rise fundraising campaigns with a view to complementing the functions of the state in meeting the social needs of society. Clearly such efforts should be welcome. However, political philanthropism deployed for personal political expedience is unconscionable and defeats the purpose of a charitable cause.

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It is uneasy to see deliberate politicisation of charitable causes; the act of political parties distributing the proceeds from charitable causes on the basis of political affiliations is wrong. Such practice is contrary to the concept of public benefit, which may alienate a well-informed electorate and potentially limit our ability to act collectively for public good.
Philanthropy is a private act of bestowing a gift for the benefit of the public; it is an act of kindness / sacrifice which has been valued by many different societies throughout history as an important means of extending a helping hand to those in need.

But when it is pursued as a political project, it may fail to meet the needs of those who cannot buy into the policies of that party. Indeed, such an act can only provide channels for political opportunism, which will allow the political class to selfishly advance their personal political agendas at the expense of the legitimate interests of the masses. It is my view that such charities are not charitable because they are constituted for self-serving purposes.

The fundamental part of a charitable cause is to receive and give charitably without discrimination, without any family, tribal, ethnic, religious, or political considerations. Basically, the public benefit test can only be met if the benefit conferred is both of a public character and can be of some benefit to the public generally. I think if we create charitable cause in the name of a political party, we run the risk of conferring public benefit on political protagonists/ militants rather than being non-discriminatory in the disbursement of the support.

We should recalibrate our efforts such that we seek to allow people to rely upon philanthropic activity that provides for the needs of the disadvantaged without expressively linking such novel activity to our chosen political party. As a society we must value the independent discretionary acts of the individual as a means of addressing social needs rather than focusing on things that divide us, namely politics. That way, we can nurture a pluralistic society where we unite as one people in our fight against the deadly public health disaster such as the coronavirus pandemic. It seems well fitting for the Government to establish a Charity Commission that has legislative powers to regulate the operation of charities in particular proceeds generated for charitable causes. Fairness, openness, and transparency are foundations on which a democratic society operates on.

To that end, I urge all political parties to separate entitlement to charitable proceeds from political affiliations. Such practice is unconscionable; it cannot be legally justified as it falls foul of the principle of public benefit test for a charitable cause.

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