A meeting of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry was called off late on Tuesday amid ongoing allegations against the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).
The committee was in Gauteng on an unrelated oversight tour, which could have allowed it to meet urgently with the NLC, which is based in Pretoria.
The Democratic Alliance Shadow Minister for Trade and Industry, Dean Macpherson, says he wrote to the committee’s chairperson, Duma Nkosi, to suggest the meeting. He said he was met with initial interest and given an indication on the day that the NLC board was prepared to cooperate, but received no explicit commitment that this would be an official committee meeting.
Parliamentary rules and the Powers, Privileges, and Immunities Act, regulate such meetings to protect its members, make them publicly accessible, and hold those speaking in them to account.
Macpherson says the insistence on a formal meeting with these protections is important because ‘the NLC’s game plan is to bully and threaten anyone who looks to make allegations or substantiate allegations against it”.
He said that Nkosi chose to cancel the meeting to ensure it happens in Parliament, which he welcomes despite this delaying the matter.
Board members of the NLC appeared in front of the committee in Parliament in November 2019. One of the resolutions from that meeting, that the NLC provide an up-to-date list of the financial beneficiaries, has not been met. Macpherson says he would move to subpoena this if necessary.
The delays and growing allegations in the public domain against the NLC may be adding to the urgency for movement on the matter. Macpherson says: “I believe that there is a stronger appetite in the committee across political lines to get to the bottom of this.” He plans to engage with the chair to schedule the meeting as soon as possible as well as continuing to put pressure on the minister.
Macpherson wrote to the Minister of Trade and Industry, Ebrahim Patel, in late January, calling for him to take decisive action, including suspending the NLC’s Chief Operating Officer, placing the Commission under administration and dismissing its board. Patel had in August 2019 written to the NLC, requesting various actions including a criminal case relating to a controversial grant given to Denzhe Primary Healthcare.
GroundUp continues to report about various instances of alleged corruption in the granting and implementing of Lottery funds, including where millions of rands have gone to non-profit organisations (NPO) or companies directly linked to the cousin and wife of the NLC’s chief operating officer. In the latest developments, lawyers representing the NLC have sent letters saying they intend to lay criminal charges against freelance journalist Raymond Joseph and GroundUp.
Nkosi, and the NLC’s spokesperson, Ndivhuho Mafela, did not respond to questions from GroundUp by the time of publishing.