South African entrepreneur and Linux pioneer Mark Shuttleworth says that he’s donating the entire R250m he won from the Reserve Bank this morning to a trust which will be established to help others take cases to the Constitutional Court.
In a statement published on his blog, Shuttleworth says that while the South African constitution is well written and strong, litigating around it is prohibitively expensive for most. In the post, titled “Exchange controls in SA provide no economic guarantees of stability, but drive up the cost of cross-border relationships for everyone”, he writes:
This is a time in our history when it will be increasingly important to defend constitutional rights. Historically, these are largely questions related to the balance of power between the state and the individual. For all the eloquence of our Constitution, it will be of little benefit to us all if it cannot be made binding on our government. It is expensive to litigate at the constitutional level, which means that such cases are imbalanced – the State has the resources to make its argument, but the individual often does not.
To that end, he is creating a trust that will be managed by lawyers, scholars and judges who will be tasked with funding cases of merit brought against the state. He says that it’s his way of saying thank you for the help and assistance of a similar team over the years.
This case is largely thanks to the team of constitutional lawyers who framed their arguments long before meeting me; I have been happy to play the role of model plaintiff and to underwrite the work, but it is their determination to correct this glaring flaw in South African government policy which inspired me to support them.
Shuttleworth maintains that it was exchange controls that forced him to emigrate in 2001 because the cost of doing business from within South Africa was too high.
I pursue this case in the hope that the next generation of South Africans who want to build small but global operations will be able to do so without leaving the country. In our modern, connected world, and our modern connected country, that is the right outcome for all South Africans.
What’s interesting is that in the appeal’s court judgement, the following point was made: “it appears to us that Shuttleworth’s primary purpose was not purely altruistic but to secure repayment of the ten per cent levy paid by him.” So the judge had it wrong, then.
[Image CC by 2.0/Alexandre Prokoudine]