Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL
Public Protector Thuli Madonsela. Picture: FINANCIAL MAIL

A leaked public protector provisional report into apartheid-era loans to Absa could be used for nefarious purposes, warns SA’s former public protector Thuli Madonsela.

Speaking at the Cape Town Press Club on Monday, Madonsela refused to comment on whether the recommendations in the report were hers.

The report recommends that Absa pay back R2.25bn for an unlawful apartheid-era bailout. The money relates to the bank’s acquisition of Bankorp, which received financial assistance from the South African Reserve Bank between 1985 and 1991. It continued until 1995, after it was acquired by Absa in 1992.

While an investigation by Judge Dennis Davis in 2000 found Absa had paid for the continued assistance in the purchase price, the CIEX report, on which the public protector relied, found that billions were recoverable from Absa.

In 1997, the state asked CIEX, a UK-based asset recovery agency headed by retired British intelligence officer Michael Oatley, to investigate apartheid-era economic crimes in exchange for fees and commission, based on amounts recovered.

Madonsela said: “I don’t know why it [the report] has been leaked at this stage.

“We had promised Absa and the Reserve Bank that we would share the provisional report with them quietly.

“How it ended up with other parties, I don’t understand….

“Will it be used for nefarious purposes? That is possible.

“From our side, it was never about using the report for nefarious purposes.”

The report also proposes that President Jacob Zuma consider establishing a commission of inquiry into whether outstanding monies are due from other institutions mentioned in the CIEX report. The leak comes as Open Secrets, with the South African History Archive (Saha), is waiting on the high court to set down for trial their application seeking to force the Reserve Bank to release records about individuals implicated in apartheid-era financial fraud.

The Bank has denied the parties access to these documents, despite several Promotion of Access to Information (Paia) requests, on the grounds that disclosure is precluded by the Reserve Bank Act and Paia.

Open Secrets and Saha say access should be granted because of the public-interest override in Paia, “as these records may reveal substantial contraventions of the law”.

With Hanna Ziady

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