Apartheid Profits

Archival documents related to our research for Apartheid, Guns and Money

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Apartheid, Guns and MoneyDeclassify the Department of DefenceUncovering the Reserve Bank’s SecretsDeclassified series

While researching Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, Open Secrets collected approximately 40,000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries containing damning details of the individuals and corporations that propped up apartheid and profited in return. Many of these documents were kept secret until now, and most remain hidden despite South Africa’s transition to democracy.

This page is a repository of all the documents made public by our research into Apartheid profiteers.

The Open Secrets Collection

Wits University Research Archive

The Open Secrets Collection is a digital collection which has been arranged according to the location of information acquired in the process of research for the book, Apartheid, Guns and Money. The collection was originally housed at the South African History Archive (SAHA) and later donated to the University of the Witwatersrand University Research Archives.

Wits University Archive

Declassify the Department of Defence

PAIA DoD: A victory for secrecy, is a loss for truth and justice

For ten years, the South African department of Defence has been delaying its constitutional duty to release declassified documents to Open Secrets researchers. The documents were requested in 13 September 2013, but through obstructive behaviour including refusing to abide by a 2021 order of court the DoD has not complied with this information request. Should the DoD win in its efforts, it will be a victory for secrecy. 

It is telling that one of the DoD’s arguments for why it cannot release the documents is because of a secret agreement entered into between the apartheid state of South Africa and the apartheid state of Israel. It’s a travesty that our democratic government is protecting the secrets of apartheid states.

PAIA DoD Recission Application 23 July 2021

Uncovering the Reserve Bank's Secrets

In August 2014, the South African History Archive (SAHA), in consultation with Open Secrets, made a PAIA request to access documents held by the South African Reserve Bank (SARB).

SAHA’s PAIA request to the SARB were for records of eight individuals which the SARB had investigated. These individuals had either worked for the apartheid state, allegedly provided services such as the busting of United Nations sanctions, or stand accused of other financial crimes. The eight individuals are: Giovanni Ricci, Fanie Botha, Paul Ekon, Craig Williamson, Wouter Basson, Vito Roberto Palazollo, Jan Blaauw and Robert Oliver Hill.

SARB took 14 months to formally refuse SAHA’s request, despite the legally mandated 30-day deadline. The Bank argued, amongst other things, that releasing the documents threatened confidentiality and posed a risk to South Africa’s economic interests.

SAHA launched a court action in 2016 to ask the South Gauteng High Court to direct SARB to release these records, due to their public interest importance. In March 2020, the High Court ruled against SAHA, making an astounding cost order of R2.7-million which served to not only potentially bankrupt SAHA but also had the chilling effect to put all civil society organisations at risk of punitive costs if they fought the State in court for access to information records.

In 2020, SAHA appealed the South Gauteng High Court judgement at the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA). This time, SAHA was victorious. In its judgement in May 2020, the SCA described the SARB’s approach to withholding  records on entirely spurious grounds as ‘redolent to the dark days of apartheid where secrecy was routinely weaponised against a defenceless population’.

In April 2021, after a 8-year battle, the SARB finally released the records of Jan Blaauw and Vito Palazzolo to Open Secrets. This is the result of a precedent-setting legal action that ensured the right of all South Africans to access information in the public interest.

Palazzolo filesBrigadier Blaauw files