Parliament comes under pressure

Waghied Misbach

Waghied Misbach

Pressure is mounting for cabinet and parliament to help sort out the troubled national lottery in the wake of Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa suspending the multibillion-rand gambling game.

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said yesterday cabinet's economic cluster of ministers should help sort out the legal tussle between the two companies competing for the licence.

Mpahlwa's spokesman Bongani Lukhele said yesterday the minister would not make any further comment on the lottery.

Mpahlwa suspended the lottery on Saturday afternoon saying it would be restarted again in about a month's time after domestic and international checks of all bidders involved.

He said he could not extend Uthingo's licence because an extension had to be applied for a year in advance.

Uthingo's licence expired at midnight on Saturday when Gidani was meant to take over.

Meanwhile Uthingo will have to bear the administrative costs of paying out winners, after a last-minute court bid failed to get the National Lotteries Board to do so. However, the matter will be settled in court on May 15.

Holomisa said he doubted Mpahlwa's promise that the lottery would restart in about a month's time.

"The minister knows very well that this matter is before the courts and that it could take a minimum of six to 12 months to sort out."

While there is cash in reserve to pay charities and other bodies, the employees of Uthingo and Gidani will suffer, said Holomisa.

Holomisa believes that both Gidani and Uthingo should be disqualified because both have political office bearers in their employ.

The DA's Pierre Rabie said yesterday that parliament should debate the matter.

He accused Mpahlwa of neglecting his duties and lacking leadership.

He also said Mpahlwa had failed to ensure that the "stubbornly dysfunctional" National Lotteries Board did its work properly.

Gidani's chief executive Bongani Khumalo said yesterday his organisation was ready to start operating if Mpahlwa gave them the go-ahead.

"Gidani is now the only organisation in the country with the resources and systems in place to operate the National Lottery," Khumalo said.

Gidani spokesman Donald Kau said there would be no further comment.

Uthingo could not be reached for comment, but its leadership has stated it wants to continue to operate the national lottery.