The Mercury

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.

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