Billionaire businessman Mark Shuttleworth felt that he should not have had to pay a levy of around R 250 million when he emigrated and took his assets out of South Africa in 2009. In June, he approached the Pretoria High Court for assistance in this regard. Shuttleworth also wanted the court to order the South Africa Reserve Bank to return that payment.
Shuttleworth took the South African government to court hoping that the current exchange control system would be nullified and declared unconstitutional. This would have brought about the desired outcome for the billionaire and his money would have been returned. The South African exchange control system is the major reason that Shuttleworth left South Africa for the United Kingdom. He now holds dual citizenship of these countries.
The court ruled against Shuttleworth and dismissed his case. Judge Francis Legodi would not scrap Section 9 of the Currency and Exchange Act. He maintained that the Exchange Control Regulations are in line with the country’s constitution. The levy remains in force and Shuttleworth will not see the return of his money.
The judge condoned the validity of the South African Reserve Bank’s policy that requires for communication with the Reserve Bank to be facilitated by bank dealers and not by members of the public.
However, Mark Shuttleworth can walk away satisfied that he at least brought the attention of the court to Section 9 (3) of the Currency and Exchange Act. The section gives the president of the republic vast power over the Currency and Exchange Act. In fact, the president may change or suspend any part of this or any other act as he sees fit. According to Independent Online, the judge said: “This provision has the potential to unravel the healing wounds of the past when laws were changed at the stroke of a pen by one individual.”
Shuttleworth owned assets to the value of R 4.27 billion at the time of his emigration. Every time he moved any of his assets outside of South African borders, he was required to pay an “exit charge” of ten per cent.