MP Calls for South African Lottery Board to be Fired

NLC investigating itself is like “turkeys voting for Christmas”, says MP in letter to minister Patel. By Raymond Joseph

A call has been made for Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, to place the National Lotteries Commission under administration, fire its board and suspend its Chief Operating Officer, in the light of ongoing revelations of fraud, corruption and nepotism involving multi-million rand Lottery grants.

Photo fo Ebrahim Patel
Minister Ebrahim Patel has been asked by Member of Parliament Dean Macpherson to take action in response to GroundUp’s report of corruption at the National Lotteries Commission. Archive photo: Ashraf Hendrick

The request by Dean Macpherson, the Democratic Alliance’s Shadow Minister of Trade and Industry, was made in a letter sent to Patel on Tuesday.

Macpherson wrote to Patel shortly after GroundUp revealed how close family members of NLC Chief Operating officer Phillemon Letwaba had benefitted from a R11.3 million Lottery grant.

“As you will be aware, there have been a number of serious allegations made against the COO of the NLC,” Macpherson says in his letter.

He says the outcome of Patel’s decision in September 2019 to pursue a criminal case in the Denzhe matter is not known.

“Further to this, the investigation into the conduct of the NLC by the entity itself and the DTI which began in December 2018 has still not been finalised,” he writes. “Seemingly with each passing month, another allegation of corruption emerges, more shocking than the one preceding it.”

“What was most striking is the abject failure of the Board to show any leadership during this time. It has also chosen not to place the COO on suspension pending the outcome of the investigation, which puts the investigation itself at risk,” Macpherson told Patel.

“To save the NLC from further reputational harm and to protect those charities that actually deserve to be funded, I believe it would be prudent for you to relieve the Board of its duty, place the NLC under administration and seek for the COO to be placed on suspension pending the outcome of the two investigations.”

In a media statement about his letter, Macpherson says the NLC Board cannot investigate allegations against itself. “It is akin to turkeys voting for Christmas,” he says.

Although Macpherson emailed the letter to the DTI on Tuesday afternoon, and again on Wednesday (he has sent us proof of this), DTI spokesperson Sidwell Medupe said it has not yet been received. Medupe said the Minister would respond to Macpherson.

Published originally on GroundUp / © 2020 GroundUp.

UPDATE: In a press statement this morning, Macpherson confirms the DA has written to Patel to dissolve the National Lottery Commission board with immediate effect and place it under administration.

The DA also commended GroundUp and journalist Raymond Joseph for having done “sterling work in uncovering these suspicious payments which have only sought to benefit and uplift the lives of those close to Mr. Letwaba including mansions and expensive cars, despite the legal threats intended to bully Mr. Joseph by Letwaba.”

Some of these allegations relate to:

  • An NPO, whose sole director is the cousin of Letwaba, was awarded R11 million to build a sports facility in Limpopo;
  • Letwaba’s brother’s private company scored a R15 million contract to build a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria. After this was revealed he resigned – only for Letwaba’s cousin to take over as the sole director of the company; and,
  • A construction company with links to Letwaba was involved in the construction of a R23 million old age home and R19.6 million museum and library in the Northern Cape.