Ebrahim Patel dealt a blow for control of Lotteries Commission
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Johannesburg - Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel this week was dealt another blow in his attempt to take control of the National Lotteries Commission (NLC).
The High Court in Pretoria this week ruled that Patel's appointment of Zandile Brown as acting chairperson was flawed and should be reversed.
In his ruling, Judge Norman Davis said: "The decision of the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition to appoint Ms Zandile Brown as acting chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission board with effect from 1 December 2020, and all extensions of the appointment are declared invalid and are hereby reviewed and set aside."
Judge Davis further added that the NLC, which has a budget of R1.6 billion, should "continue to effect payments for expenditures and the distribution of funds as contemplated in the annual budget of 2020/2021 approved on 26 January 2021."
Patel was dragged to court by NLC board members who had objected to Brown's appointment, indicating he did not have the powers to do so. Another contentious issue was the extension of Brown's acting in the position until the end of March.
The ruling is another chip in Patel's armour as he pushes to have his appointees at the organisation's helm. While Brown was acting, the process to find a new chairperson was under way. On 4 September 2020, the department published a notice in the Government Gazette calling for nominations.
Judge Davis said after nominations had been received, the minister employed his screening process and, on 12 November 2020, provided Parliament's portfolio committee on trade with the names of three candidates. Patel was then accused of trying to smuggle his "preferred candidate through the back door" with the three names.
The Independent Beneficiaries Forum (IBF), which is part of the United Civil Society in Action (Ucsa), has written letters to the ANC accusing Patel of having "gone through loops and lengths to ensure that the processes of appointing the NLC chairperson are flawed" to get Professor Barney Pityana as the new chairperson.
The organisation asked the ANC to "engage Patel to withdraw the name of Pityana with immediate effect" and "make sure there is transparency and fairness in the appointment of the chairperson of the NLC".
Four weeks ago, the Sunday Independent reported on the score sheet from the interviews conducted by the portfolio committee on trade and industry on 9 March. 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.
Muthuhadini Madzivhandila followed Dlamini 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 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 to accommodate the minister's preferred chairperson, Pityana, even though he didn't make it to the top three.