South Africa: Lotteries COO heads to court to halt corruption probe
Phillemon Letwaba says executive chairman of audit firm SkX is biased and has a conflict of interest
National Lottery Commission Chief Operating Officer Phillemon Letwaba has gone to court to have a forensic report on corruption in lotteries declared illegal.
This is the second attempt to stop an investigation into alleged lottery corruption.
Letwaba claims that Abel Dlamini, the executive chairman of SkX protiviti, is biased and has a conflict of interest. SkX was commissioned by the Lottery to investigate internal corruption.
In the legal petition, Letwaba said the non-profit company in which Dlamini’s apparent parents are listed as directors received a grant of almost R15 million from the Lottery shortly after SkX was appointed. .
He fears that “the big picture of the facts… will compromise the result of the investigation” carried out by SkX.
We’ve been told Minister Patel, who oversees the lottery, has yet to get a copy of SkX’s investigation report.
National Lottery Commission (NLC) Operations Manager Phillemon Letwaba has gone to court to have a forensic report on bribery in lotteries declared illegal and quashed.
This is the second attempt to shut down a corruption investigation involving alleged NLC corruption.
Earlier this year, the High Court in Pretoria rejected a request by the NLC to overturn the 2020 appointment of independent investigators commissioned by the Minister for Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, to investigate the corruption involving the NLC.
At the heart of Letwaba’s judicial review application is a claim that Abel Dlamini, the executive chairman of SkX protiviti (SkX), the company responsible for making the report, is biased and has a conflict of interest. A non-profit organization “closely associated” with Dlamini received a nearly R15 million grant from the NLC “via the Proactive Model” shortly after SkX’s appointment, Letwaba claims in court filings. SkX and the NLC are named as respondents in the case.
The case was due to be heard in the High Court in Pretoria on September 3, 2021, but it was never entered into the court docket. The only document in the Pretoria High Court file is a note signed by a judge, noting that the case was not on the docket.
A source with knowledge of the matter told GroundUp that it appears neither the NLC nor SkX have filed response documents yet. Dlamini and the NLC were asked to provide copies of their responses to Letwaba’s request, but neither responded.
Conflict of interest
In her application, Letwaba said the conflict was related to Dlamini’s relationship with the Ubuntu Institute for Young Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit of which Dlamini’s apparent parents, Celenhle and Cedza Dlamini, are both directors.
GroundUp has already been made aware of the Ubuntu grant and Dlamini’s relationship with administrators. But we have not been able to confirm this as the NLC has yet to release its 2020/2021 Annual Report where details of the beneficiaries would be listed.
Dlamini did not answer our questions, including what his relationship is with Celenhle and Cedza, who also did not answer our questions. The NLC also ignored questions about the grant.
We have since confirmed that Ubuntu received almost R15 million in September 2020, approximately seven months after SkX was appointed by the NLC to investigate corruption within the NLC. Ubuntu also received R10 million from the NLC in the 2015/16 financial year for an arts and culture project. It is unclear what these funded projects entailed.
The Dlamini siblings, Celenhle and Cedza, are the grandchildren of the late King Sobhuza II of Swaziland. Celenhle, who is chairman of the National Arts Council, uses the title “Princess” and “HRH”, while Cedza refers to himself as “Prince”.
Letwaba, in newspapers, said he believed “a personal relationship” between Abel Dlamini and former NLC board member William Huma “will undermine the outcome of any investigation”.
Huma resigned as a member of the NLC board late last year after facing evidence of his alleged corruption uncovered by the Special Investigations Unit (SIU). GroundUp previously revealed how millions of rand had been paid into Huma’s home loan by lottery grant recipients.
This grant which was intended to raise the women of Marikana was instead used to pay for a state-of-the-art poultry facility in the Northwest owned by one of Huma’s companies. Millions from a grant for a care home in Mpumalanga were also used to help pay for a luxury estate for Huma in the North West.
Letwaba said he was “deeply concerned that [a] personal relationship” between Huma, who was still an NLC board member at the time of the request, and Dlamini would “undermine the outcome of an investigation.” He said there was a “clear conflict” in SkX’s nomination.
Letwaba said he was “concerned” that the “review of the facts…will compromise the outcome of the investigation” being conducted by SkX.
Letwaba also claimed there had been ‘contested administrative action’ in SkX’s appointment as there had been ‘no tendering as required for services above R1 million’ . He said the SkX contract was valued at R8 million. However, a May 2021 response to a parliamentary question from NLC commissioner Thabang Mampane said that SkX had received R9.65 million “to date”.
He claimed that SkX’s appointment was illegal under the Administrative Justice Promotion Act because it was “made for an ulterior purpose” on the “unauthorized or wrongful dictates of another person” and “was made in bad faith” and/or “arbitrarily”. or capriciously.” Huma did not answer our questions.
Millions paid but still no report
Although almost R10 million has been paid for the investigation, the report by SkX – commissioned in February 2020 – has yet to be published. GroundUp reliably understands that Minister Ebrahim Patel, who oversees the lottery, has yet to obtain a copy of the report.
In response to the same parliamentary question in May 2021, NLC Commissioner Thabang Mampane said the SkX investigation was due to be completed a year early but had been delayed by “Covid-19 restrictions”.
“The investigation process is ongoing and the final results of the investigation [are] waiting. The Board will make available the final results of the survey upon its conclusion and adoption by the Board as previously undertaken in [Trade and Industry] portfolio committee,” she said.
Dlamini and the NLC did not tell us if the investigation into SkX was complete or if SkX owed more than the 9.6 million rand it had already been paid.
Lottery millions for Letwaba’s wife
In his application, Letwaba refers to a story from GroundUp revealing how a company in which his second wife, Rebotile Malomane, was a director received a R5 million lottery grant. He was paid a few months after Malomane became manager.
Letwaba said her marriage to Malomane was solemnized in November 2020. Malomane, the mother of three of his children, was Letwaba’s longtime girlfriend before paying the lobola to her family in 2018. Per cultural tradition, they were then called husband and wife. “These allegations are false and I have no doubt that over time the name will be erased from the sting of the allegation,” Letwaba said.
Letwaba also denied having any involvement in awarding the grant, which he said is “the absolute prerogative of the distribution agency established under section 26A of the Lotteries Act, made up of persons appointed by the Minister of Commerce, Industry and Competition.
Where have the millions paid to Ubuntu gone?
The Ubuntu Institute for Young Entrepreneurs was first registered as a nonprofit in July 2006, with siblings Celenhle and Cedza as directors, according to the Corporations and Intellectual Property Commission ( CPIC).
Although he received grants from the NLC, this is not acknowledged on the Ubuntu website and it is unclear which project the grants funded. This violates a condition that all NLC grants must be acknowledged.
Ubuntu describes itself as “an international non-profit development organization focused on achieving the United Nations Millennium Development Goals in Africa”.
It also claims to support a wide range of projects “in youth development, poverty eradication, women’s empowerment initiatives, international student exchange programs, HIV/AIDS prevention, culture and heritage, education and sustainable development in Africa”. The last post on its news page dates back to 2012, with the first post dating back to 2008, when the site was launched.
The Ubuntu Facebook page, created in 2019, is more informative. According to its publications, the organization appears to be primarily focused on training in South Africa, with no publications on projects in the areas in which its website says it is active.