The judgement is regarding the constitutional validity of South Africa’s Exchange Control (Excon) mechanism
With the publicity the case has been receiving, this could potentially mark the end of exchange controls in South Africa.
“I definitely think that the publicity is breathing life into this debate. The problem with exchange controls is that a lot of it operates in secrecy so the fact that there’s a lot of publicity around the topic is going to make it very difficult for the treasury not to implement changes, that are more friendly to a modern South Africa,” Michael Heath, founder of the specialist exchange control services company, XConsult, told CNBC Africa on Tuesday.
The case between Shuttleworth and SARB has been on-going since 2010 when the billionaire emigrated from South Africa and was charged a levy of 250 million rand when he tried to get some of his assets out of the country in 2009.
Shuttleworth wants the court to order SARB to return the money as well as declare SARB’s “closed door” policy of insisting that members of the public communicate with them through the intermediation of authorised banks as unconstitutional and invalid.
He also blamed the South Africa’s Excon mechanism for forcing him to emigrate in 2001 as it prevented him from conducting his entrepreneurial and philanthropic ventures on a global scale. The billionaire believes that South Africans should be allowed to stay residents in the country and retain their freedom of investing globally.
“I think many people do want the abolishment of the exchange controls, whether the treasury actually goes for that is yet to be seen but there is definitely room for a lot of improvement and South Africa could only benefit in the long term,” said Heath
He said that having someone like Mark Shuttleworth, with financial resources and a public profile, challenge the government system could enforce some real changes that will benefit other smaller businessmen that weren’t able to have the same impact.
In Judge Legodi’s judgement on application for leave to appeal, he stated that he observed that issues raised in the main applications were many and complex. This resulted in one of the longest judgements ever handed down by the court.
The judge also noted that the court might arrive at a different conclusion to his own and that this was the test he had to apply in deciding whether to grant leave to appeal.
The appeal is expected to be heard in the first quarter of 2014.