Mrs Thabang Charlotte Mampane, Commissioner of the National Lotteries Commission, writes:
On 5 October 2018, an article titled “School Built with R28M Lotto Funds Falls to Pieces” by the journalist Raymond Joseph was published on various platforms, including Times and Dispatch Live, and the Limpopo Mirror/Zoutnet stable.
The article seemed to suggest that nothing is/was done by the NLC in response to the concerns identified at the Vhafamadi Secondary School in Vuwani, a school which had been rebuilt with NLC funding after it was damaged in the riots of 2016.
We state for the record that an enquiry was received from Mr Joseph, and that he was furnished with full information regarding the interventions of the NLC at Vhafamadi, including:
• That the NLC has appointed an independent engineering firm to investigate concerns and assess the building;
• The outcomes of the report from the independent engineers; and
• That remedial work has been undertaken on the building.
We also note with concern the context of the reporting which remains unbalanced, and implore you as editors to impress the importance of fairness in reporting on the journalists you work with.
A delegation from the NLC will visit the school on Tuesday, 9 October 2018 at 10:00 to inspect the remedial work being undertaken. We would like to extend an invitation to you to join us in this engagement with our stakeholders in Vuwani.
Dear Ms Mampane. You speak about unbalanced reporting but fail to mention in what manner the report was not balanced. The article quotes the NLC’s Mr Tsietsi Maselwa where he states: “The NLC … subsequently appointed an engineering company which has assessed the extent of the challenges and compiled a report for consideration by the NLC…” None of what you stated above was omitted from the article. Also, given an opportunity to state that remedial work had since been done, you spoke instead about the appointment of an engineering company that had compiled a report.
It is also strange that the NLC is planning a site visit a few days after the articles had been published, even though the problems have existed for some time.
However, you fail to address any of the other very serious issues raised in the article. The questions that come to mind are “Why did the NLC channel R28,3 million through a small NPO with no experience in the construction industry?” or “Why does the official beneficiary of the grant have no knowledge of the project and denies being involved in any of the processes?”
Why will the NLC not lift the veil on who was responsible for the construction work and, instead, say a PAIA request should be sent? Should the NLC not have answered questions such as who the companies involved in the project are? Why the secrecy?
Perhaps we are from the “old school”, believing fairness is something also owed to the communities where the NLC funds projects. Such fairness may imply transparency and accountability, ironically enough the very words used in the Lotteries Act when describing how the Commission should conduct its business.