Minister’s ‘irregular’ appointment set aside
THE EFF has welcomed a judgment in which the high court in Pretoria overturned Trade and Industry Minister Ebrahim Patel’s decision to appoint one of his own officials as acting chairperson of the National Lotteries Commission.
Judge Norman Davis reviewed and set aside the appointment of Zandile Brown as acting chairperson with effect from December 1.
He also declared any extension of her appointment as invalid.
The judge further ordered that the National Lotteries Commission was authorised to continue to effect payments for expenditures and the distribution of funds as contemplated in the annual Budget as approved in January. The department was told to foot the bill for the application launched by the National Lotteries Commission in which it challenged Brown’s appointment.
The commission said not only was the minister not entitled in law to appoint Brown, but it was an irregular step. Brown was appointed in her acting capacity by Patel after the term of the former chairperson, Professor Alfred Nevhutanda, came to an end.
Judge David was told that it was crucial for the chairperson, or in this case, acting chairperson, to be impartial as the person at the helm could veto any decisions made by the board.
It was pointed out that the operations of the board include the approval of the licensed operator of the National Lottery and it was “well known” that the current operator’s term lapses in 2022. Brown was appointed in the acting position without any recommendations from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry. Thus, it was argued, the appointment was illegal.
Nevhutanda stated that the legality of the board meetings convened by Brown has created a looming governance crisis affecting the general public.
He said as her appointment is invalid, vital decisions taken during board meetings would also be invalid.
“Members of the board fear being held liable for wasteful or irregular expenditure arising from improperly convened board meetings and they are reluctant to attend. The urgent intervention of the court is thus needed,” he said.
The minister said that after the term for the previous chairperson lapsed, his department published a notice in the Government Gazette calling for nominations.
After he had received nominations, he did his own screening process and came up with names, including Professor Barney Pityana.
The portfolio committee pointed out that this was contrary to the Lotteries Act.
While the process was still ongoing to appoint a permanent chairperson, the minister decided to appoint Brown in the interim, as he was of the opinion he had the power to do so.
Despite objections from the board, pointing out that he did not have this power, the minister forged ahead with the appointment.
Judge Davis said an open and transparent process was not followed by the minister and stated that the appointment of Brown was clearly outside the provisions of the act.