- The National Lotteries Commission says the DA is "mischievous and malicious" for laying criminal charges against it for its refusal to release beneficiary lists.
- The DA took this step after trying to obtain the lists for months, amid allegations of corruption.
- The NLC says the question on whether the beneficiary lists should be released is before the courts.
The corruption-accused National Lotteries Commission (NLC) says the DA is being "mischievous and malicious" by laying criminal charges against it for its refusal to release beneficiary lists.
On Wednesday, in a heated meeting of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, DA MP Mathew Cuthbert said that the the party would be laying criminal charges against the NLC for its refusal to release beneficiary lists and would report the chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry, Duma Nkosi, to the Speaker of Parliament for their inaction in dealing with the matter.
This cane after Cuthbert attempts to obtain the 2018-2019 NLC proactive-funding beneficiaries, 2019-2020 proactive-funding beneficiaries and the 2020 Covid-19 Relief Fund beneficiaries from the NLC stalled in the committee.
The proactive-funding beneficiary lists have been published by the NLC in previous years, but after a slew of reports by GroundUp about alleged corruption in this sphere, the NLC started claiming it is illegal to release these lists.
In a statement on Wednesday, Cuthbert said: "The DA will not give up its fight in making sure that South Africans know how their money is being spent, as we seek to untangle the web of corruption that engulfed the NLC, which is now being actively protected by Members of Parliament."
On Thursday, the NLC responded with a statement of its own. "The Democratic Alliance’s accusation that the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) is engulfed in corruption is false and grossly disrespectful to the Commission," it reads.
The NLC said, over the past three years, there had been "a small percentage of beneficiary projects that have been mismanaged", and that they had sought to correct these, and in all instances had instituted investigative enquiries, some of which were ongoing.
"The DA appears to have fallen in with a false characterisation by certain aggrieved civil society organisations of the NLC as corrupt. This depiction tarnishes the Commission and its hardworking members unjustly and is causing harm on the NLC, an organisation which works tirelessly to benefit South African society within the bounds of the Lotteries Act."
The NLC says that Section 67 of the Lotteries Act, and the regulation protecting beneficiary information, are currently being tested in the Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
"The Commission has taken advice from senior counsel and attorneys that these laws are valid and constitutional. The matter will be heard in the coming weeks and we expect that the ensuing judgment will bring clarity to this matter," reads their statement. Against this background, it comes as mischievous and malicious for the DA to institute the action they threatened in yesterday’s public statement."
The case the NLC refers to has been brought by a group called United Civil Society in Action (UCSA), who asks the court to order the removal of content about NLC beneficiaries from GroundUp, particularly a report of 25 May about unfinished Lottery projects and missing funds. They also want an order preventing GroundUp and the NLC from publishing details of beneficiary and projects and the amounts and timing of grant allocations.
UCSA, which represents several NGOs, first appeared in February, and thus far their only actions have seemingly been in defence of the NLC, and attacks on GroundUp.