In the 2020/21 financial year, the National Lotteries Commission(NLC) paid out more than R164 million to non-profit organisations, schools, and sport clubs in the Limpopo Province. The top beneficiaries this time around included the struggling victim-empowerment programmes. The NLC also announced that it would not inject more money into corruption-tainted projects such as the Maila village old-age-home project.

According to Limpopo Mirror, the NLC presented its latest annual report to parliament last week. The report includes the list of organisations that benefitted from Lottery grants. In total, more than R1,17 billion was paid out to what is supposed to be projects aimed at alleviating poverty.

DIFFICULT PERIOD FOR THE AGENCY

The NLC went through a difficult period, with allegations of large-scale looting of funds rocking the institution. The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) tasked to investigate the allegations reported to parliament in September this year that it was investigating more than R1.4 billion in dodgy Lottery grants. The unit’s head, Andy Mothibi, told parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Trade, Industry and Competition that, during the first phase of the investigation (involving 12 grants valued at R279,7 million) it found that the funds were “corruptly siphoned out of the NLC with the assistance of [former NLC] Executive and Board members”.

The dodgy projects referred to by the SIU included several old-age-home and drug-rehabilitation projects throughout the country. One of the projects is at Maila village, some 30km southeast of Louis Trichardt. Limpopo Mirror first visited this abandoned site in December 2019 and has since then reported extensively on the irregularities.

This was yet another case where an existing but dormant NPO was hijacked and used to syphon off millions in Lottery funding. Mushumo Ushavha Zwanda, the hijacked NPO, received R27,4 million to build an old-age home. This was without the local community’s being involved in the process or even asking for such a facility.

This money, along with payments from other NLC beneficiaries, were later used to pay for a property in Wonderboom, Pretoria, linked to a former NLC board member. “The remainder of the R22 578 350 loot was transferred to a company owned by one of the hijackers. The funds were laundered from his company to other companies linked to himself and those of the family of the senior official of [the] NLC,” Adv Mothibi told the parliamentary committee in March this year.

THE WAY FORWARD

The latest NLC report shows that R65 million had been allocated to complete most of these unfinished projects. This time around, however, the work will be done by engineering firms commissioned by the NLC.

The NLC’s spokesperson, Ndivhuho Mafela, told online publication GroundUp that “the NLC took a decision to oversee the completion of these projects directly through its own panel of engineers. The Special Investigating Unit was engaged on completion of the projects and did not oppose such action.”

One of the projects not on the list to be completed was that of Mushumo Ushavha Zwanda. When Mafela was asked about this old-age home project, he said that a decision had been made to abandon. “The project in question has completely come to a halt and the SIU instructed that it cannot be continued like the others,” he said. Mafela confirmed that the half-built structures at Maila village were in such an advanced stage of decay. Getting them operational would simply cost too much.

LIMPOPO MIRROR VISIT THE SITE

When Limpopo Mirror visited the site in August this year, what was very clear was that a mammoth effort would be needed. The site has been exposed to the elements for several years now. It became the target of opportunistic thieves who looted building materials.

The traditional leadership structures at Maila are, however, optimistic that something can be done to convert the facility into something of use to the community. Vhamusanda Vho-David Nthabalala said that the way the project had started, was completely unacceptable. They were never consulted and would not in any case have opted for an old-age home.

Nthabalala said earlier this week that, if they could secure funding, they would complete some of the buildings. Hoping to establish a multi-purpose community centre. “The centre will include a satellite police station, a clinic, a community hall. A library, a home affairs office, and a social-development office. We also intend to name the centre after Thovhele   Vho-Vhutshilo Ramabulana,” he said.

Where the community would get the millions required to build such a centre remained unclear, however.

NATIONAL LOTTERIES COMMISION VHEMBE

In the Vhembe District, the Lottery funding has brought much-needed relief to several struggling victim-empowerment structures. Such as the Mutale Victim Empowerment Programme. In June last year, R1,183 million was paid to this non-profit institution that endeavours to assist mainly women who are the victims of gender-based violence.

A director of the Mutale VEP, Mr Azwindini Mudau, said that they had used the money to purchase a vehicle to be able to visit the victims. In some cases, transport them to places of safety. The funding also helped them to cover the expenses of the organisation’s volunteers.

The Mara Victim Empowerment Programme received almost R400 000 in January this year to assist the organisation. Ms Benita Kaldine, a director of the Mara VEP, was very grateful for the funding that they had received. “The money has helped us to combat gender-based violence,” she said. They used the funds to buy food and offer shelter for the victims. Part of the funds was also used to compensate the volunteers for their expenses incurred.

Some of the other organisations that received funding are the Dzata Victim Empowerment NPO (R915 000) and the Makhuvha Victim Empowerment (R246 000) programme. Several drop-in centres, day-care facilities and schools in Vhembe also received funding.

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