Sanef concerned about National Lotteries Commission Chair Statement for State Security Agency to investigate journalists
5 December 2018
The South African National Editors’ Forum (SANEF) is alarmed at a statement by the chairperson of the board of the National Lotteries Commission, Professor Alfred Nevhutanda, that the NLC has asked the State Security Agency (SSA) to investigate journalists.
Nevhutanda, who was appearing before Parliament’s Trade and Industry portfolio committee last week, claimed that the NLC had “recently learnt” that the NLC’s computers had been hacked and “information about projects since 2001 was in the US, with a backup in the Western Cape”. This, he said, was the source of media reports about his organisation. And, he said, journalists were being paid to write “fake stories” about the misspending by the NLC, with the intention of bringing down the organisation.
His claims came soon after a story published in GroundUp by freelance journalist Raymond Joseph and community newspaper owner and publisher Anton van Zyl, exposed alleged multimillion-rand corruption involving NLC grants, as well as the awarding of a Lottery-funded contract to a company of which the brother of a senior NLC official was the sole director.
Nevhutanda’s statements also came against the background of an ongoing investigation by a group of investigative journalists into multimillion-rand grants to a variety of Lottery-funded projects.
It appears that the NLC either has no idea how independent journalism operates and instead of investigating the alleged corruption that has been exposed, it resorts to attacking the journalists involved.
Equally disturbing is a call to civil tech organisation OpenUp by a person claiming to be involved with the NLC’s IT, asking them to take down a tool that has made 16 years of Lottery grants keywords searchable. Ironically, all the data in the tool has been scraped from the NLC’s annual reports and is available in PDFs on the organisation’s website.
Nevhutanda’s remarks reflect an extremely dangerous attitude where the media is being blamed for the NLC’s inherent problems. Rather than investigating why millions cannot be accounted for, the NLC has instead tried to cast doubt on the integrity of the journalists involved and has asked the SSA to investigate their sources.
Statement issued by Janet Heard, Western Cape Regional Convenor, SANEF, 5 December 2018