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The thought of a state enterprise running the national lottery was one of the major sticking points in the public hearings on the Lotteries Amendment Bill in Parliament this week.
The National House of Traditional Leaders and two youth organisations, the Southern African Youth Movement (SAYM) and the SA Youth Council (SAYC), made their submissions on the proposed amendments to Parliament’s portfolio committee on trade and industry.
And while the House of Traditional Leaders said it supported the amendments, and was “ready to work in partnership with the National Lotteries Board”, it raised concerns regarding the clause that gives the Trade and Industry Ministry power to authorise an organ of state to run the lottery for eight years if there were “justifiable grounds” for not appointing an independent company.
Kgosi Themba Mavundla, presenting on behalf of the House of Traditional Leaders, suggested that a caretaker company should rather be appointed, to avoid direct state involvement.
However, ANC committee member Bheki Radebe defended organs of the state, saying that some, such as the National Treasury, were among the “best in the world”.
He added that to appoint a private caretaker company would involve tender processes, which would be too lengthy, resulting in a similar situation to the one where the lottery was suspended for months in 2007, after the awarding of the licence to operator Gidani was questioned.
Sello Pietersen, presenting on behalf of the SAYM, also raised concerns that “the role of the state must be the creation of a conducive environment for private business to flourish, and by the state contesting the private sector space, it undermines that very principle”.
The SAYC, meanwhile, submitted that the National Lotteries Board (which it advocates be called the National Lotteries Commission) be enabled to run the lottery in case of a delay in awarding the licence, and that the act should rather allow the minister to appoint a caretaker company for a period of no more than 30 months.
Both youth organisations also favoured a longer licence period for the private operator.
Pietersen said the seven-year period was “too short”, and did not make business sense.
They suggested a 10-year licence, allowing operators to invest more, knowing that their investment was a long-term one.
In other countries, he said, the lottery licence was routinely between 15 to 20 years.
Other issues raised during the hearings were over young people and projects in rural areas gaining access to lottery funding.
The National House of Traditional Leaders said it had previously had no engagement with the Lotteries Board, but had since signed a memorandum of understanding. Mavundla said that would allow the body to be in a position to recommend people who were “responsible” and “eager to serve the needs of their community” for funding.
The DA’s Giordin Hill-Lewis countered that there was already a process in place to ensure that applicants were responsible, and that a different process was not necessary for those living in areas “that fall under traditional leaders”.
Mavundla argued that the process would take place before application, and was one of “identification, not adjudication”.
The ANC’s Xitlhangoma Mabasa also questioned whether that approach would raise the risk of bribes. - Independent On Saturday