Reserve Bank asked to release 'apartheid-era' secrets

04 August 2017 - 12:57 By Ernest Mabuza
The South African Reserve Bank building in Pretoria. File photo.
The South African Reserve Bank building in Pretoria. File photo.

The South African History Archive (SAHA) is going to the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday to compel the South African Reserve Bank to release records of suspected apartheid-era financial crime.

In 2014 SAHA requested information from the Reserve Bank in terms of the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA).

SAHA wants records obtained by the Reserve Bank as part of its investigations into fraud and gold smuggling between January 1980 and January 1995. It believes that these alleged activities could be linked to high-profile individuals like Johann Philip Derk (Jan) Blaauw‚ Vito Roberto Palazzolo‚ and Robert Oliver Hill.

The Reserve Bank denied SAHA’s request‚ citing confidentiality and the possible risk to South Africa’s economic interests.

SAHA said given the current public outcry over alleged widespread state capture in South Africa‚ untangling the extensive networks that enabled corruption was more pressing than ever.

The organisation said private interests remained central to the abuse of state power.

It said for this reason it was essential to hold those responsible to account and access to information was a key instrument in these efforts.

In arguments to court‚ SAHA said the position in law was that everyone was entitled to access to records held by public bodies as of right‚ provided that the required procedures had been followed.

“SAHA contends that SARB has failed to give effect to its constitutional and statutory obligation to provide access to information. The reasons relied upon by SARB in refusing access to the records are without merit‚” SAHA said in its submissions.

However‚ the Reserve Bank said it was puzzled by the request.

“The PAIA request was unreasonably cryptic and vague.”