Home South African Ugly twist in National Lotteries Commission leadership battle

Ugly twist in National Lotteries Commission leadership battle

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Civil organisations are accusing the Trade and Industry minister of trying to smuggle his preferred candidate through the back door.

Minister Ebrahim Patel. Picture: Bheki Radebe

THE BATTLE for the position of chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has taken an ugly twist with one shortlisted candidate taking a member of Parliament to court for defamation while civil organisations are accusing the Trade and Industry minister of trying to smuggle his “preferred candidate through the back door”.

The Independent Beneficiaries Forum (IBF), which is part of the United Civil Society in Action (Ucsa), has written letters to the ANC accusing Ebrahim Patel, of having “gone through loops and lengths to ensure that the processes of appointing the NLC chairperson are flawed” in order to get Professor Barney Pityana as the new chairperson.

The organisation appealed to the ANC to ask Patel to “provide us with dates and information on who and which organisation nominated Pityana” for the position of the chairperson of the NLC.

The organisation added that “it has now since become evidently clear to us that the ‘preferred candidate’ whom we are still battling to understand with due respect to him (the poor candidate) how he made it to the top three, is an ageing academic Prof Dr Barney Pityana.”

The organisation asked the ANC to “engage Patel to withdraw the name of Pityana with immediate effect” and “make sure that there is transparency and fairness in the appointment of the chairperson of the NLC”.

The NLC has a budget of R1.6 billion. Independent Media has seen the score sheet from the interviews conducted by the portfolio committee on trade and industry on March 9 where former Electoral Commission of South Africa commissioner Terry Tselane received the highest score, a total of 90 with overwhelming votes from all parties.

Tselane was followed by Themba Dlamini who received 86, the second highest score, even though members of two political parties weren’t available to vote at the time of voting.

Dlamini is followed by Muthuhadini Madzivhandila with 85 points and Pityana came fourth with 84 points. And former director general in the Office of the Presidency Reverend Frank Chikane came fifth with 80 points.

But when the shortlisting for the three highest scored candidates were initially released, Dlamini wasn’t listed but Pityana was on the list of the top of three names sent to Patel for consideration, which prompted the IBF to apply for access to information about the interviews and scoring which revealed that Pityana wasn’t supposed to be in the top three.

“The portfolio committee then decided to shortlist four candidates instead in order to accommodate the minister’s preferred chairperson, Pityana, even though he didn’t make it to the top three,” Tebogo Sithathu, the convenor for Ucsa, said on Saturday.

Sithathu added: “The minister is trying to smuggle Pityana, who is his preferred candidate, through the back and we aren’t going to allow that.”

The portfolio committee responded in a letter dated March 31, 2021 to the CEO of the African Liberty Movement wherein it requested information regarding the scoring and shortlisting of the candidates.

After attaching the scores of candidates which clearly show that Pityana’s score was the fourth highest, the letter says: “The portfolio committee is satisfied that the process of shortlisting by the committee was both procedurally and substantively fair, yours sincerely, Mr D Nkosi, MP, chairperson, PC on Trade and Industry.”

On Saturday, questions sent to Patel’s spokesperson Sidwell Medupe were seen but remained unanswered and so did several calls to his cellphone.

Independent Media can also reveal that Madzivhandila, who is a non-executive board member of the NLC, has filed urgent court papers accusing DA member of Parliament Mathew Cuthbert, who is also the party’s spokesperson on trade, industry and economic development, of sabotaging his prospect of getting the job and defaming him as well.

In his court papers, Madzivhandila claims Cuthbert defamed him by issuing a press statement on March 12, after he allegedly realised that he was one of the shortlisted candidates, that he “was a director of non-profit company which received R900,000 from NLC and that it needed to be determined whether or not he declared this prior to his appointment to the board”.

Madzivhandila, in his papers, claims he “served on the NLC board with integrity at all times. I have never been a director of a non-profit company that received R900,000 from NLC prior to my appointment to the board”.

Madzivhandila challenged Cuthbert to give the name of the non-profit company as well as any document including a bank account linking him to the company.

When phoned for comment on Saturday, Madzivhandila said: “This is a well-orchestrated campaign to discredit me and influence the appointment of the new chairperson of the national commission.”

Cuthbert, who sat on the portfolio commission interviewing panel, scored Madzivhandila 55, while the parties scored him differently and gave him high scores – 95 from the ANC, 98 from the EFF, 89 from the ACDP and 86 from the Freedom Front Plus.

In a press statement under the headline “DA rejects ANC’s recommendation for NLC chairperson”, Cuthbert stated: “Despite having been impressed by the interviews of other two shortlisted candidates, Mr. Terry Tselane and Dr. Barney Pityana, the DA has chosen to reject the committee’s recommendation of three names to Minister Ebrahim Patel on account of Dr. Madzivhandila’s inclusion on the shortlist.

“We now urge Minister Patel to make the right choice and appoint either Mr. Tselane or Dr. Pityana in the interests of fixing what is so glaringly wrong at the NLC.”

Madzivhandila’s lawyer, Jones Ditsela, said the matter is expected to be heard in court on the 4th of May.

Cuthbert said on Saturday that he couldn’t comment on the matter as the DA lawyers were handling it.

“The matter is currently with our lawyers and therefore I can’t comment but we will make a public statement on the matter once our lawyers have made a decision,” he said.