The Brenthurst Foundation, a Johannesburg-based think tank funded by the Oppenheimer family will only work directly with the Office of the Presidency, according to leaked 2007 WikiLeaks cable.
According to the cable, Brenthurst provides the service, free of charge, to African governments on three conditions: the Foundation will only work directly with the Office of the Presidency, it will only provide policy advice where invited by the President of the country; and, it prefers to work in countries where the Oppenheimers do not have direct business interests.
Brenthurst is largely the initiative of Jonathan Oppenheimer, son of Nicky Oppenheimer, who wants to influence the debate on Africa’s economic future and Dr. Greg Mills has served as director of the Brenthurst Foundation since March 2005.
At the time of the report, The Brenthurst Foundation was providing “confidential” policy advice to the Governments of Liberia, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Mozambique.
Dr Mills told Political Officer and visiting S/P Advisor on October 1 that Brenthurst focuses on advising African governments on economic policy, not political issues.
Dr. Mills is the point person on the initiative, although he draws on the resources of outside consultants for particular country projects.
Dr. Mills noted that the term “Foundation” is misleading since Brenthurst provides little grant money adding that it is primarily a think tank, focused on policy.
According to WikiLeaks, Rwanda is one of Brenthurst’s most active programs and he planned to spend four months in Kigali in early 2008 working directly with President Kagame on economic policy.
It reported that he in regular and direct contact with President Kagame and was helping draft his speeches, including President Kagame’s speech to the Conservative Party conference in the U.K.
In addition to the policy work, Brenthurst also facilitates dialogues on Africa policy issues, often through Conferences at Tswalu Game Reserve, also owned by the
Brenthurst works most closely with the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) for Defence and Security Studies.
Asked why the Oppenheimer family is devoting so many resources to this initiative, Dr. Mills said that each generation of Oppenheimers wants to make their mark.
“It is motivated by humanitarian or ideological objectives, not financial,” Dr. Mills said.
Dr. Mills formerly headed the South African Institute for International Affairs
(SAIIA) at the University of Witswatersrand, the preeminent Foreign policy think tank in South Africa.
Dr. Mills received his BA from the University of Cape Town, and his Masters and PhD from the University of Lancaster.
According to WikiLeaks, the US government believes Dr. Mills would be open to U.S. Government-provided materials — or even discreet, informal advice — on the economic and political challenges facing the countries in which Brenthurst is actively working.