Chief operating officer of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) Philemon Letwaba doesn’t appear to be letting his nearly year-long suspension from work get him down, and has been living his best life while on leave.
Letwaba is currently spending his 10th month on special leave, pending an investigation into alleged irregularities at the commission, committed under his watch. Despite this, he is still apparently raking in over R200 000 a month in compensation from the commission.
According to a report tabled in parliament late last year, more than R14 million was spent on executive salaries in 2019, as well as another R2,3 million in performance bonuses. Of this amount, Letwaba took home an annual package of R3.35 million.
That equates to a whopping R279 166 per month, which he has still been earning despite apparently being placed on special leave since March last year.
“One of a kind Pedi traditional wedding”
Lewtaba agreed to go on special leave after he was named in a slew of allegations involving several dodgy projects funded by the NLC, many of which were never completed.
The controversy surrounding him also hasn’t stopped him from living it up.
Letwaba threw a lavish wedding for himself and second wife Rebotile Malamane in Tzaneen, Limpopo, in November, complete with a massive marquees and Gert Johan Coetzee gown for the bride.
The wedding organisers posted several pictures of the event on social media, captioning it a “one of a kind Pedi traditional wedding”.
Malamane is a director in an NGO name Zibsimanzi, along with Nonhlanhla Mashaba and Themba Mabundza.
Wife’s NGO under investigation
In October last year, President Cyril Ramaphosa signed a proclamation authorising the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate corruption allegations in the NLC. The proclamation followed the elite police unit, the Hawks’ establishment of a task team to investigate the institution.
This probe was launched in September 2020, after trade and industry minister Ebrahim Patel handed over a dossier of evidence gathered by forensic investigators he appointed. The allegations contained in the dossier involved a dodgy R27.5 million rand Lottery grant.
A presentation made to parliament regarding the allegations showed how Malamane’s NGO Zibsimanzi copped R4,8 million in one of the projects under investigation. During that presentation, DTIC director-general Lionel October named four projects including Denzhe Primary Care, Zibsimanzi, Life for Impact in the 21st Century, and I am Made for God’s Glory.
All of these projects were linked to Letwaba and lawyer Lesley Ramulifho. The latter allegedly allowed Denzhe Primary Care, an NPO, to access grants amounting to R27.5 million. The funds were meant to develop a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria, one of several projects mentioned in the dossier, which have yet to see the light of day.
Letwaba and Ramulifho were at the centre of a series of shocking exposes by GroundUp detailing a multimillion rand NGO conduit racket, which was used to swindle the NLC out of funds meant to help impoverished communities.
First wife also implicated
According to the Groundup investigation, the NLC also made several deposits into another company of which the sole director is Letwaba’s first wife, Daisy.
She has denied all allegations, as has her husband, and the NLC has indicated its intention to pursue legal action against Groundup and journalist Raymond Joseph for the articles.
They had reported that bank statements for the NPO, Denzhe Primary Care, showed four deposits in the name of “Letwaba Energy” totalling R165,000 between July 28 and August 21, 2017.
The NLC also allegedly paid R27.5 million into Denzhe’s accounts to develop a drug rehabilitation centre near Pretoria, which is now the subject of litigation after this failed to materialise.
No comment from the NLC
NLC spokesperson Ndivhuho Mafela declined to comment on questions by The Citizen on whether an acting COO had been appointed and details surrounding Letwaba’s continued suspension.
“Investigations in the affairs of the NLC are in the public domain. Due to the fact that these investigations have not been completed the NLC is therefore not going to be making any further comment so that there is space for these investigations to take course without any hindrance,” was his reply to a request for comment.
Letwaba could not be reached for comment.
- Additional Reporting by Groundup.org.za