You may not have heard, but South African tech entrepreneur and philanthropist Mark Shuttleworth recently won an appeal against the South African Reserve Bank in which the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) was ordered to return R250m deducted as a levy for transferring his personal fortune overseas in 2009. Shuttleworth fought the levy on the basis that it was a tax deducted unconstitutionally, and eventually won.
Shuttleworth maintained that he wasn’t actually interested in the cash itself, but the principle of “taxation without representation” should be opposed. He also maintained that strict exchange control laws in South Africa are stifling trade and investment.
True to his word, immediately after the judgement he donated the whole sum to be held in trust and used to finance cases for individuals who wanted to fight a matter regarding their constitutional rights in the courts but lacked their own finance to do so.
That gesture has now been dubbed “an act of aggression” by the South African Communist Party and its outspoken Secretary General, Blade Nzimande. Clearly not everyone was thrilled to find out that Shuttleworth will be helping the Average Joe take thing a little bit further than the Magistrate Court.
Addressing SACP and ANC supporters at the Red October rally recently, Nzimande said “This is an act of hostility, which I think we must take up as part of our financial sector campaign.”
Hold on Mr Blade… are you suggesting that helping people like your supporters, who most certainly can’t afford to take matters to the Constitutional Court, is a hostile act?
It would appear that Nzimande has got the wrong end of the stick somewhere, however. According to IOL the SACP believes this fund is to be used to help others move their money into tax exile – but according to his blog post, Shuttleworth’s fund will be open to anyone to use and managed by local lawyers, academics and other experts in constitutional matters for selected cases where the defendant is the state and the plaintiff can’t afford to act for themselves.
Because Shuttleworth’s “it is expensive to litigate at the constitutional level… the State has the resources to make its argument, but the individual often does not” comment is totally out of place, right?
“Shuttleworth seeks to achieve the exact opposite of what we want to achieve through our Financial Sector Campaign,” Nzimande said. Let’s for a moment unpack what your campaign is all about, shall we?
The gist of your campaign is to make it easier for people to apply for micro-loans and to make it easier for them to repay whatever they are in debt for. The Red October Campaign’s mission is to attack financial institutions because they often refuse to give the poor financial assistance. Umm, excuse me, but isn’t that exactly what Mark is doing?
Correct me if am wrong, but don’t you think that the two causes are more aligned than they are against each other? Yes, he did “challenge some of the economic decisions of our government”, and he has been proven right. And ploughed it right back into the country. To help others.
The trust will also serve to assist entrepreneurs to start local companies with global operations, without having to leave the SA shores, like he did.
It might be hard for you to believe, and even the judgement that favoured Shuttleworth expressed doubts that his motivations were “altruistic”, but the fund does seem to be open to all to use. I’m happy to be proved wrong – but let’s at least wait and see exactly how the fund is structured and what cases it gets used for, hey?
“In particular, Shuttleworth seeks to achieve the exact opposite of what we want to achieve through our Financial Sector Campaign. In the absence of any other alternative or option, we must accept that the war chest that Shuttleworth has set up constitutes a declaration of hostility by him.”
*sigh* It’s as the old saying goes: “Common sense is never that common.”[Via IOL, Image CC by 2.0/Alexandre Prokoudine]