Avatar photo

By Editorial staff

Journalist


Lotto gamble that didn’t pay off

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is looking into R1.4 billion in dodgy lottery grants, it told parliament this week.


In terms of understatement, the new National Lotteries Commission (NLC) chair’s comment this week about the investigation into the body must surely rank as one of the best. Barney Pityana said: “This flagship philanthropic project, that should be the pride of our country, has been buffeted by crosswinds.”

With all due respect, sir, and in an effort to correct your euphemistic way of putting things, the reality is this: an institution meant to make a real difference in the lives of ordinary South Africans has systematically and cynically been plundered by people appointed to their jobs by the ruling party.

What makes this particular looting so odious and obscene is that the National Lottery was conceived as a way of raising money, other than through direct taxes, and then channelling that money into organisations which, through their work, can radically alter the lives of people – from athletes to the disabled, to children who don’t have enough books in their schools.

The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is looking into R1.4 billion in dodgy lottery grants, it told parliament this week.

Among the money diverted was R6.3 million for a Rolls-Royce car… which some view as the ultimate expression of the capitalist exploitation of poor people.

ALSO READ: NLC looks to reinstate its credibility

Along with that limo, NLC officials and board members – and their accomplices in some legal firms – bought luxury mansions, too, while projects were either not completed, or not begun at all. Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition Ebrahim Patel noted that “courageous individuals, ranging from whistle-blowers to journalists and investigators, were essential to uncovering wrongdoing”.

In particular, the GroundUp media organisation, which first exposed and then doggedly pursued the web of corruption, deserves mention. Despite multiple legal threats and character smears, its narrative ex- posed the ugly thieving detail.

More than that, it forced the authorities to investigate and got the lottery system changed.