Apartheid-era crimes: High court bid for Reserve Bank records

The Reserve Bank is being taken to court to release records of economic crimes dating back to South Africa’s dark apartheid past.

The South African Heritage Archive
(Saha) has escalated its bid for access to financial records of eight
individuals after its request in terms of the Promotion of Access to
Information Act (Paia) failed.

The bank intends opposing the
application filed at the Gauteng division of the High Court last month.

The SA Heritage Archive has spent the last 15 years trying to use Paia to access records that will help South Africans to
understand how apartheid oppression and corruption happened. 

“Surely we all share the duty to remember, to
acknowledge the atrocities of the past in order to better guard
against their recurrence,” its director, Catherine Kennedy, told the
Mail &
Guardian
.

Court papers submitted by Saha,
working with the Open Secrets Project, state that an estimated R650-billion
worth illegal financial transactions may have taken place during the apartheid
years.

Read the full affidavits here: http://foip.saha.org.za/request_tracker/entry/sah-…

Should the organisation succeed in
its bid, the Reserve Bank would have to dig up records involving, among others,
apartheid-era biological and chemical warfare expert Dr Wouter Basson and Vito
Palazzolo, now serving jail time in Italy for his involvement in Mafia
dealings.

Saha seeks records that would
reveal evidence of the Reserve Bank’s own investigations into, among other
things, significant fraud and the smuggling of gold and other precious
metals. 

It argues that the bank has a
constitutional obligation to comply.

The bank maintains that the
Reserve Bank Act itself precludes it from divulging information about third
parties. In addition, it argues that such disclosure may prejudice the bank in
future.

More on the quest to lift the lid on apartheid-era financial crimes in tomorrow’s edition of the M&G.

In Numbers

184: The number of Paia requests
filed by the South African Heritage Archive since August 2014

56: The number of requests
released in full

81: The number of requests denied or deemed to have been
refused

Most common reason for refusal:
Records do not exist

Access to information was denied
in 50-100% of requests to the SABC, the City of Joburg, the Reserve Bank and
the Auditor General.

Public bodies with a better Paia
track record: 

  • South African Police Services 
  • Eskom
  • Departments of Basic and Higher
    Education
  • Department of International Relations and Co-operation (Dirco)
  • South African Revenue Services (Sars)
  • City of Cape Town and Ekurhuleni

.

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