Background

Open Secrets is an independent non-profit with a mission to promote private sector accountability for economic crime and related human rights violations in Southern Africa. Our vision is to promote the right to truth and contribute towards social justice by using research, advocacy and litigation to hold powerful private actors to account for violations of human rights. Open Secrets aims to contribute its efforts to an area of work which is currently under-served in the region. We aim to complement and support important work currently undertaken by partner organisations in civil society.

The following six guiding principles inform the approach we take to our work:

  1. Research that informs action: We undertake focussed, in-depth and rigorous investigations.
  2. Advocacy for accountability: We believe that in partnership with other in civil society organisations we can be strong advocates for change.
  3. Litigating for change: The law, particularly in South Africa, is a powerful instrument that can be used to hold private actors accountable for breaking the law and abusing power.
  4. Working collaboratively: We are commited to ensuring collaboration with partner organisations in civil society in all aspects of its work.
  5. Go where its hard and we can add value: We undertake work where we believe that we can add value and hence a primary focus on the financial services sector. We also choose to focus on economic crimes and human rights abuses involving the powerful and well resourced.
  6. Transparency, integrity and accountability in practice: We are transparent about the approach of our work and the sources of our funding. Open Secrets will not accept funding that undermines our integrity.

Open Secrets was originally established through a fellowship awarded by the Open Society Foundation for South Africa in 2012, and from January 2014 it operated as a project of the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation. Its main focus in this period was research and advocacy on economic crime during apartheid, which has culminated in the publishing of Apartheid Guns & Money in May 2017.
Open Secrets registered as an independent non-profit organisation in February 2017.

Staff

Director: Hennie van Vuuren – Hennie works as Director of Open Secrets. 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 supports the Right2Know campaign and serves on the boards of Natural Justice and My Vote Counts. He is the author of Apartheid Guns & Money: A Tale of Profit (2017) and co-author of The Devil in the Detail: How the Arms Deal Changed Everything (2011).

Researcher: Investigations and Advocacy: Michael Marchant – Michael works as a researcher on investigations at Open Secrets, as well as on advocacy. He was the lead researcher on Apartheid Guns & Money: A Tale of Profit. He is also active in the Right2Know Campaign.

Intern: Thato Toeba is a PhD candidate at the South African/ German centre for Transnational Criminal Justice, a joint degree between the University of the Western Cape (Cape Town, South Africa) and Humboldt University (Berlin, Germany). She holds an LLM from the same centre as well as an LLB from the National University of Lesotho. Her area of focus is International Economic Crimes, particularly International Anti-corruption Law. She is an advocate of the High Court of Lesotho.

Intern: Neroli Price is a podcast producer, historian and researcher. She holds an MA in history from UCT and during her studies worked as a tutor and spent a semester in the USA studying public history. Having previously worked at Equal Education and the Sound Africa Podcast, she has experience in both the NGO and media worlds.

Board

Basetsana Molebatsi 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 currently the 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.

Bonita Meyersfeld is the 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.

Shaamela Cassiem – Shaamela works at Save the Children. She works closely with social justice groups and previously worked as a manager for international training and technical assistance at the International Budget Partnership. Shaamela is passionate about working with organisations for sustainability and impact, social justice and transformation, and adult education and learning.

Hennie van Vuuren (ex-officio) – Hennie works as Director of Open Secrets.

Who Funds Us

Open Secrets relies on the generous support of individual donors and partner organisations to fund our work. We also believe that its important to disclose details of our organisational funders.

We gratefully acknowledge current support from the following partner organisations:

The Open Society Foundation – Human Rights Initiative
The Claude Leon Foundation
The Heinrich Böll Foundation

We greatly appreciate any individual donations to support our work. These can be made through GivenGain

 

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