EFF rejects Barney Pityana’s appointment as NLC chair

The appointment of human rights lawyer Barney Pityana to chair the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) is another corruption stunt pulled by the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel, the EFF said on Tuesday.

This after the cabinet announced on Monday that it had approved Pityana to serve as the chairperson of the commission during a meeting held on Thursday last week.

But the EFF has said that Patel wants his associates to triumph over a lottery license that is due for renewal in 2023. EFF spokesperson Sinawo Thambo said: “The Economic Freedom Fighters rejects with contempt the appointment of the directionless and elderly Barney Pityana as the chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission.

“The appointment of Pityana is premeditated corruption by Ebrahim Patel, who wants his friends and business associates to win a manipulated lottery license that is due for renewal in July 2023.

“Patel had intended to bypass the legislated process to impose a chairperson of the [NLC] on the National Assembly, undermining legislated processes.”

Thambo said in November 2020, the EFF wrote to former speaker of the National Assembly Thandi Modise in an attempt to expose Patel after he had appointed “a group of his friends paraded as an independent shortlisting panel that had no legal standing”.

“The EFF was vindicated when the legal advice, which was provided by the parliamentary legal services, confirmed what we highlighted in the letter. As a result, the portfolio committee on trade and industry was forced to undertake a transparent process despite the resistance and obstruction of the process by ANC members of the committee.

“Throughout the interview process, ANC members in the committee made it obvious that their mandate was to abuse their majority and impose preferred candidates, disregarding an important combination of age, skill set, experience, and object views of opposition party members in the committee,” Thambo said.

He added that the ANC members insisted on Pityana and Frank Chikane, both of whom “will be willing to undermine and subvert the process as Patel and his handlers will be able to micromanage and manipulate”.

“It is an objective fact that Pityane was the least preferred candidate among the parliamentary recommendations for the position. It is an irrational appointment which falls in line with a tendency to ignore recommendations by democratically and constitutionally established institutions in South Africa in favour of a factional agenda of capture.”

According to Thambo, the recommendations for the appointment of the chairperson of the NLC were made by the committee in 2021, however, the ANC stalled the proceedings to find a way “to smuggle Chikane’s name into the report in an unprocedural way”.

“It was only after Pityana and Chikane’s names were included in the report in an unprocedural manner that the report recommending candidates for the appointment of the chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission was adopted.

“The EFF appeals to Pityana’s conscience, if there is anything left of it, to refuse to be used in an attempt to further the capture and destruction of institutions to serve a factional agenda,” said Thambo.

Thambo added that Pityana is a 76-year-old (political) veteran who has made his contribution to society, saying for him to accept the appointment would undermine his struggle credentials and position him as an obstacle to youth development in a country plagued by youth unemployment.

The EFF reiterated its commitment to expose lottery licenses corruption. The embattled NLC is currently under fire over lottery corruption. In March, a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) probe revealed how NLC officials and their relatives benefitted from lottery millions.

The SIU found that the NLC leadership allegedly plundered about R300-million meant for community upliftment projects across the country.

Said the SIU in a statement at the time: “The SIU investigation has uncovered a web of corruption related to NLC funding and flow of funds to NLC officials, board members, and their family members. The SIU is pursuing all individuals involved in the siphoning of NLC money.”

In June, the SIU was granted a preservation order to freeze the luxury property of Vhutanda Investment whose sole director is a former chairperson of the NLC, professor Alfred Nevhutanda.

According to the SIU, the R27-million property in Annlin, Pretoria was allegedly purchased with money from the NLC non-profit organisation’s grant funds in 2018.

Meanwhile, the NLC board last week served chief operating officer Philemon Letwaba with a notice to suspend him. This despite an earlier probe that cleared Letwaba of money-laundering and abusing his position for his benefit.

Letwaba, who is expected to be officially suspended this week, was also alerted in the notice that the same charges he was previously cleared of would re-emerge.

Also read: SIU reveals how NLC officials, relatives benefitted from Lotto millions

SIU gets preservation order to freeze assets of former Lotto boss

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