The process to appoint a new chairperson for South Africa’s National Lotteries Commission (NLC) has come under scrutiny after Parliament’s Chief Legal Adviser questioned the legality of the process being followed.

A new chairperson of the NLC is supposed to be appointed before the term of its current chair, Alfred Nevhutanda, concludes at the end of the month.

Former Public Protector Thuli Madonsela, struggle stalwart and cleric Reverend Frank Chikane, and human rights lawyer Barney Pityana had been shortlisted by an independent committee to replace the outgoing chair, whose term in office has been described as ‘scandal-ridden’.

The committee, appointed by the Minister for Trade, Industry and Competition, Ebrahim Patel, and headed by Judge Dennis Davis, picked Madonsela, Chikane and Pityana as the finalists from a list of 41 applicants.

Madonsela, a law professor at the University of Stellenbosch, said she was approached to apply for the NLC chair position at the last moment, but pulled out when she realised the extent of the role.

Madonsela said: “Only after I’d applied did I find out what has been happening with the Lottery and the size of the job involved. I had thought it was a normal role of quality control and oversight.

“I pulled out when I realised the extent of the job. I do not have the capacity, with everything else I’m doing, to do properly what the NLC job would require.”

Following this, Parliament’s Chief Legal Adviser, Z. Adhikari, has stated that based on the Lotteries Act, “it appears that the shortlisting process is the mandate of the Portfolio Committee on Trade and Industry. The requirements for openness and accountability further supports this interpretation”.

Adhikari said the committee had only been provided with ‘cursory information’ relating to the shortlisting process, adding: “The portfolio committee has no information relating to the criteria used for the shortlisting … nor does it have any information pertaining to the methodology used to assess the competency and skill of candidates.”

The Chief Legal Adviser warned that any appointment of an NLC chairperson “that is inconsistent with the procedure as provided for in the Act can be challenged and a court can nullify the appointment.”

EFF Chief Whip Floyd Shivambu also wrote to the committee’s chairperson stating that the process being followed was ‘fraudulent and illegal,’ adding the Lotteries Act did not make provision for the minister to appoint an ‘independent shortlisting panel.’

As a result, it is now highly unlikely that a new NLC chairperson will be appointed before the deadline of December 1.

The parliamentary committee was due to interview the three shortlisted candidates on Tuesday, before recommending one of them to the minister to fill the position. The committee will now meet with Parliament’s legal advisor on that day instead to discuss her legal opinion, and to decide how to proceed.

One of the options that the committee will consider is restarting the process from scratch. The proposal to start afresh was raised by members of several political parties represented on the committee.

Sidwell Medupe, Patel’s spokesperson, said the minister would review the legal opinion presented to the committee.