vision and mission
Our vision is to promote the right to truth, and contribute towards social justice by holding powerful private actors to account through research that leads to legal accountability and advocacy for change. We aim to contribute our efforts to an area of work which is currently under-served in the region, and in doing so, complement and support the important work being undertaken by partner organisations in civil society.
Open Secrets registered as an independent non-profit organisation in February 2017 and has since been pursuing work arising from its research on apartheid-era economic crimes, as well as embarking on new investigations. Open Secrets was originally established through a fellowship awarded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa in 2012, and operated as a project of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation from January 2014. Its main focus in this period was research and advocacy on economic crime during apartheid, which culminated in the publication of Apartheid Guns and Money: A Tale of Profit in May 2017.
Caryn focuses on investigations and advocacy as a researcher at Open Secrets. She has a diploma in journalism from the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and has spent the past 13 years working as a reporter. She’s written for various publications including the amaBhungane Centre for Investigative Journalism and News24. Her work has uncovered suspected links between policing, intelligence operatives and organised crime. Caryn is the author of the book, The Enforcers: Inside Cape Town’s Deadly Nightclub Battles, published in mid-2019.
Jill works as the operations manager at Open Secrets, providing project management, human resources, financial management, editorial, and governance support to the organisation. She has previously worked for various pan-African non-profit organisations as well as for South Africa’s foreign affairs department. Jill also has extensive experience in the events and hospitality industry. She holds a BA (Hons) in Political Studies from the University of Cape Town and is passionate about social justice issues.
Michael works as a researcher at Open Secrets, focusing on investigations and advocacy. He is simultaneously completing his LLB at the University of South Africa. Michael holds an MSc in International Development from the University of Edinburgh, as well as a PPE(Hons) from the University of Cape Town. He was the lead researcher on Apartheid Guns & Money: A Tale of Profit. He is also active in the Right2Know Campaign.
Zen holds a BA International Studies degree from Stellenbosch University. She also holds a PGDip in Sustainable Development from Stellenbosch University’s School of Public Leadership. As a postgraduate researcher at the Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST) she engaged in research around State Capture and governance issues. She is currently working as a research and advocacy intern at Open Secrets and completing her MPhil.
Mamello is a researcher at Open Secrets and a PhD candidate in Political Studies at the University of Cape Town. She holds an MPhil in Justice and Transformation from UCT as well as an MSc in Security, Leadership and Society from King’s College London. Before joining Open Secrets, Mamello worked for the Institute for Justice Reconciliation and the International Centre for Transitional Justice where she contributed to research on transitional justice issues.
Ntombi is an experienced cleaner and has worked in this sector since moving to Cape Town in 1999. Ntombi has worked at Open Secrets and the Right2Know Campaign since 2017. At the beginning of this year, Ntombi also started working at the Human Rights Media Centre (HRMC).
Tabitha completed her LLB at the University of Cape Town and is a Bertha Justice Fellow. As a researcher, analyst, and lawyer, with over 8 years of experience in the human rights field, her previous work experience includes gender work, transformation in higher education, sexual and reproductive health rights, violence and crime, prisons, and education law. She has a drive and passion for holding Power to account, using various tools, including legal tools and advocacy.
Naushina graduated from the Dullah Omar Institute with her Masters in Law, State & Multi-level government after completing her LLB (Law) degree from the University of the Western Cape. She has completed an advanced course in Leadership and Social Responsibility. Her recent work during her training as an Attorney with the Legal Resources Centre includes using strategic litigation to protect vulnerable groups, promoting law reform and enforcing measures of transparency & accountability. She is a Bertha Justice Fellow and part of the Bertha Women’s Working Group.
Meghan holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Hons.) degree specialising in Sociology, with a particular focus on research and research methods. Her interest in social justice led her to undertake a 12 week-long volunteership at Open Secrets as part of her course requirements for the completion of her MPhil specialising in Justice and Transformation at the University of Cape Town. Meghan now joins us as an intern where she will continue her work on advocacy and investigations as she completes her studies.
Hennie works as Director of Open Secrets and has twenty years of experience in the non-profit sector working on issues of corruption and accountability. He is a past fellow of the Open Society Foundation for South Africa and has worked as Director of the Institute for Security Studies in Cape Town and for Transparency International in Berlin. Hennie serves on the board of My Vote Counts and iis the author of Apartheid Guns & Money: A Tale of Profit (2017/2018) and co-author of The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything (2011).
Shaamela Cassiem (Board Chairperson)
Shaamela Cassiem has more than 25 years’ experience in working in civil society in South Africa. During this time she has worked on various campaigns including the Child Support Grant and End Corporal Punishment in South Africa. At the same time, Shaamela has worked across the globe supporting NGOs in their country on advocating for transparency, accountability and participation in public budgets. She is passionate about supporting a sustainable, robust, credible civil society as a fundamental aspect of democracy. Her work experience centres around public budgeting for social justice and equity, using adult education methodologies to support activists’ knowledge and skills to produce evidence-based research for their social justice campaigns and, providing technical support to NGOs for building sustainable and impactful organisations.
Bonita is the former director of the Centre for Applied Legal Studies (CALS) and an associate professor of law at the University of Witwatersrand. She teaches international law, business and human rights, and international criminal law. She is an editor of the South African Journal on Human Rights, and the founding member and chair of the board of Lawyers against Abuse. She is passionate about the role of law in promoting human rights in business.
Basetsana is a partner at the firm of attorneys Harris, Nupen, Molebatsi (HNM). In addition to her focus on commercial law, she has a background in advocating for access to information as a human rights lawyer, and previously worked with the Open Democracy Advice Centre (ODAC). Basetsana is a former Chairperson of the Women’s Legal Centre Trust, and is a member of the Advisory Council of the Centre for the Advancement of the South African Constitution.
Mukelani is a governance specialist working on accountability and governance policy issues at Integrity 4.0. He also serves as deputy chair of the Open Contracting Partnership advisory board and is a board member of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Mukelani is the former co-chair of the global steering committee of the OGP and faculty member of the International School for Transparency. He previously served as Executive Director of the Open Democracy Advice Center (ODAC), a South African law center that specialised in freedom of information and whistleblower protection laws.
Hennie van Vuuren (ex-officio)
Hennie is Director of Open Secrets.
Open Secrets relies on the generous support of individual donors and partner organisations to fund our work. We gratefully acknowledge current support from the following organisational funders: