Open Secrets does specialised and evidence-based investigative research to uncover how private-sector economic crimes lead to human rights violations.

Current Investigations:

Apartheid Guns and Money

A Tale of Profit

South Africa remains a deeply unequal society battling the legacy of apartheid and the persistence of corrupt networks that seek to ‘capture’ its democratically elected leaders. In Apartheid Guns and Money, Hennie van Vuuren argues that in the absence of accountability, corrupt networks of the past stay in business. Rather than face justice, they invite members of the new elite to the table. In over 600 pages, this meticulously researched book finally lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together a treasure trove of newly declassified documents and eyewitness accounts.

Read More about the book, see reviews, download graphics and take action.

The Unaccountables

The Powerful Politicians and Corporations who Profit from Impunity

In The Unaccountables, we meet those responsible for the state of the country; apartheid and war profiteers, the state capture profiteers, those who have profited from welfare, we meet the banks who got away with laundering and profiteering, the auditors and consultants complicit in economic crimes and, unsurprisingly, the bad lawyers at the NPA.

This book is led by research, data and years of investigation into scandals spanning 50 years. As such, it is one of the most persuasive books to have been written about corruption in South Africa.

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Who Has The Power?

South Africa’s Energy Profiteers

This report shows who holds the power in South Africa’s energy sector and spotlights the key private players in the coal, gas, diesel, and renewable energy industries—who we call ‘energy profiteers’. We identify the private corporations that stand to benefit from maintaining the status quo, i.e. a reliance on fossil fuels, in South Africa’s energy sector. We also identify the corporations that stand to benefit from South Africa’s transition to new energy sources.

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Fronts, Fakes and Façades

How South African and Mauritian enablers helped move millions from Zimbabwe to Britain

This report is the product of a collaborative investigation by The Sentry and Open Secrets. The report examines how a politically-connected oil tycoon in Zimbabwe moved suspect funds from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ) to the City of London using front companies, fake invoices, and offshore financial façades.

This story is about Zimbabwe, but it is also a story about the global financial economy that creates an enabling environment for state capture and the flow of funds out of the poorest countries in the Global South to offshore financial centres.

The Secretary

How Middlemen and Corporations Armed the Rwandan Genocide

In The Secretary we delve into the Malo Arms Deal facilitated by South African arms dealer and former secretary to PW Botha, Willem ‘Ters’ Ehlers. While PW Botha’s ousting left Ters Ehlers without a job; the early 1990s and the advent of democracy in 1994 would be an opportu­nity for him and other securocrats to mone­tise their proximity to the inner workings of the apartheid military establishment. The Secretary focusses on one single arms transaction related to the Rwandan genocide, the report underscores the glob­al nature of civil wars and genocide. It shows how localised genocides have far and com­plex origins, involving not just victims and perpetrators but also enablers and profiteers.

Russian Doll series

Who murdered Frans Mathipa?

Colonel Frans Mathipa was shot in the head and killed by unknown assassins on Sunday, 6 August. Who are the skilled shooters who murdered a seasoned investigator in the Hawks’ Crimes Against the State Unit? Is there a link to a SANDF Special Forces unit that is alleged to have abducted civilians suspected of being Isis terrorists? What was this unit of Special Forces operatives doing on the quay in Simon’s Town when containers were loaded off and on the Russian vessel the Lady R in December 2022?

A Russian Doll is an Open Secrets series published on the Daily Maverick.


State Capture: South Africa

The Conspirators and the Enablers, and the bad cops and lawyers.
State Capture in South Africa saw many public officials abuse their power and violate the law to facilitate the enrichment of a small cabal of individuals and entities. They would not have been successful if it were not for the private “enablers” – the banks, accounting firms, consultants, lawyers, and other professionals – that facilitated the criminal conduct that formed part of the state capture enterprise. These actors profited immensely from capture. It remains urgent that all these actors, public and private, are held accountable. To disrupt networks state capture, there needs to be a reckoning for those who have been implicated in the looting. The evidence exists. It is now up to the Hawks, NPA, and other regulators to do their jobs.


We have not forgotten

Unaccountable is an Open Secrets series published on the Daily Maverick. The series consists of profiles on large corporations and private individuals who are implicated in economic crime but have never been held to serious account. They all escaped substantive justice. The decision to focus on powerful private actors implicated in large scale political corruption,is a conscious one and mirrors the approach of Open Secrets. Many of the profiles are based on Open Secrets’ existing and ongoing research.

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Profiting from Misery

South Africa’s complicity in war crimes in Yemen

Since the war in Yemen broke out in 2014, South African and global arms companies have cashed in on the sale of weapons to parties who are central to this humanitarian disaster. These firms have profited from the devastation of war and the resulting misery of Yemenis. Profiting from Misery: South Africa’s Complicity in War Crimes in Yemen, shows that Rheinmetall Denel Munitions (RDM) and other South African companies have regularly supplied Saudi Arabia and the UAE led coalition with weapons before and since the civil war started in Yemen. The evidence of these countries’ orchestration of* human rights abuses in Yemen, discussed at length in this report, is sufficient to show that weapons exports from South Africa should have been prohibited by the arms regulator, the National Conventional Arms Control Committee (NCACC).


The Corporations and Economic Crime Report (CECR)

Editorial publication series

The Corporations and Economic Crime Report is a publication series by Open Secrets that delves into cases of private sector economic crime and corruption, and their impact on human rights. CECR explores the most egregious cases of economic crimes and corruption by private financial institutions, from apartheid to the present day. In doing so, we aim to highlight the key themes that link corporate criminality across these periods of time, focusing on the role of the private sector, which remains ignored in the debate around economic crime.

CECR volumes to date:

  1. The Bankers
  2. The Auditors
  3. The Consultants



Cancelled Pensions

The Bottom Line: Who Profits from Unpaid Pensions?

This investigative report is the culmination of a year-long investigation by Open Secrets into the pension fund industry in South Africa. According to the Financial Services Board’s 2018 Annual Report, over R42 billion in benefits is owed to over 4 million pensioners and pension fund members.

Digital Profiteers

Who profits next from social grants?

In this ‘data play’ nothing is mahala! The new frontier of the ‘digital welfare state’ poses new opportunities for corporations to profit from the data gathered from South Africa’s social grant system. This is a threat to social justice and the constitutional rights of people who receive social grants.

The investigative report, Digital Profiteers: Who Profits Next from Social Grants, focuses on how the digitalisation of state services offers opportunities for corporations to generate excessive profits from digital systems that can harm vulnerable people.


Apartheid Profits

While researching Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit, Open Secrets collected approximately 40,000 archival documents from 25 archives in seven countries. These records contained 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. In line with our belief that this information should be scrutinised by the public, we published the Declassified series of articles on the Daily Maverick and News24 to make public the documents that informed the book.

The arms trade and its historical roots, an illustration by Carlos Amato, inspired by the People's Tribunal on Economic Crime. Image available at

The Arms Deal and the Seriti commission

Arms Deal Facts and our litigation on the Seriti Commission

This is an information portal on the 1999 Arms Deal and the Seriti Commission established to investigate allegations of corruption in the deal. Here you will find the documents, investigations, and ongoing legal cases on the Arms Deal by Open Secrets and our civil society partners. This portal is the succesor to the defunct Arms Deal Facts website and houses all the documents and information formerly held by that website.