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Ronald Lamola’s promise to protect whistleblowers a good sign, despite former law firm’s history of opposing them

Ronald Lamola’s promise to protect whistleblowers a good sign, despite former law firm’s history of opposing them
Minister of Justice and Correctional Services, Ronald Lamola. (Photo: Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS)

The Minister of Justice’s former law firm has represented the National Lotteries Commission against whistleblowers.

Justice Minister Ronald Lamola promised at the weekend that more will be done to protect whistleblowers who expose corruption. This is a welcome announcement from Lamola, whose former law firm has in the past represented the corruption-ridden National Lotteries Commission against two whistleblowers in its ranks. Sello Qhina and Mzukisi Makatse were fired for exposing corruption at the NLC.

Addressing the South African National Editors Forum in Cape Town on Saturday, Lamola said legislation was being amended to further protect whistleblowers. “We are working hard to tighten laws to protect whistleblowers, and we are confident that the media will be important partners in this process. We need to work together to ensure that the government and companies implicated by whistleblowers are held accountable,” he said.

Lamola’s former law firm, Ndobela Lamola Inc, is the author of three reports on the corruption-riddled National Lotteries Commission which cleared then NLC boss Phillemon Letwaba in 2019 of any wrongdoing. Two successive ministers of Trade and Industry to whom the reports were submitted, Rob Davies, and Ebrahim Patel, found them seriously wanting.

Lamola was a director of the firm when two of the reports were submitted.

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Also the law firm acted on behalf of the NLC against Makatse, who was fired after he refused to sign off on a dodgy 2017 Lotteries grant. As for Qhina, he took his dismissal to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) which found in his favour. But he has gone further, to the Labour Court, where the NLC is being represented by Ndobela Lamola.

Both men have paid a heavy price for the stand they took against corruption, as they point out in a powerful 2 February letter to the new chair of the Lotteries Board, Professor Barney Pityana.

Describing the way they suffered through the process, the two men write: “As a whistleblower, you are made to feel that you are on the wrong side of the law. The government, the courts, the police, all doing nothing to protect you. You are completely on your own as the perpetrators of wrongdoing bleed you dry. You lose everything. Your home, car, school fees for your children, their clothes, food and their fun activities. In extreme cases, you even lose your family and your sanity.”

Makatse and Qhina ask that the wrongs committed against them be righted. They say that as two of the people who started the “revolution” taking place in the NLC, they also want to be part of “the historic mission of bringing the organisation back to its original purpose”.

In Parliament, Minister Ebrahim Patel has saluted the whistleblowers who were “essential to uncovering wrong-doing” at the Lottery. But it is all very well to address Parliament — or Sanef — about whistleblowers. Words without action are … just words. DM

First published by GroundUp.


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