Embattled National Lotteries Commission chief operations officer Phillemon Letwaba has resigned with immediate effect, just weeks before he was due to appear before a disciplinary hearing to answer charges of abusing his position to enrich himself and his family.
The board of the NLC is yet to accept Letwaba’s sudden resignation.
“The National Lotteries Commission would like to place on the record that the Chief Operations Officer of the NLC, Mr. Phillemon Letwaba has expressed his wish to resign from the NLC with immediate effect. The matter is under the consideration of the board and the Acting Commissioner,” the NLC said in a general media release after GroundUp sent questions yesterday about his resignation.
Letwaba’s resignation on Wednesday comes just days after the sudden resignation of NLC Commissioner Charlotte Thabang Mampane. GroundUp had revealed that her luxury North West golf course home was paid for from a Lottery grant to build a school in Limpopo.
Letwaba has been at the heart of many GroundUp stories on corruption at the NLC over the past few years, including several Lottery-funded projects in Kuruman, this one involving a multimillion-rand drug rehabilitation centre in Pretoria, and a R4.8-million grant to a non-profit where his wife was one of the directors.
Letwaba has previously denied the allegations against him, including in a previous disciplinary hearing. He is also suing GroundUp for defamation.
Letwaba, who was suspended for a third time earlier this month, was facing charges in terms of the Lotteries Act, which included receiving financial benefits from recipients of Lottery grants.
He was controversially cleared of similar charges when he faced a disciplinary hearing in March. A decision was taken by the new NLC board to charge him again after receiving legal advice that there were problems with the manner in which the hearing was conducted.
Letwaba was originally charged after SIU head Andy Mothibi informed then Commissioner Mampane of evidence of misconduct by Letwaba.
Letwaba, he said, was guilty of misconduct or breach of trust by accepting financial benefits of around R45-million through multiple entities linked to his family. There was also evidence that Letwaba had been involved in conflicts of interest that contravened the Lotteries Act, he told Mampane.
The new hearing was due to begin earlier this month but was delayed after Letwaba’s lawyer objected to the lawyer appointed to chair the hearing. Letwaba’s contract at the NLC was due to expire at the end of November. Sources with knowledge of what transpired believed that this might have been a ploy to delay the hearing and avoid the possibility of being dismissed before his term ended if he was found guilty. The new hearing, before another chairperson, was due to begin early next month.
During his time at the NLC, Letwaba was given the nickname of DJ, because “people danced when he spoke”. He was born in the small Mpumalanga village of Seane, before moving to the nearby village of Marapyane, where he built a luxury home on a large property acquired from the local chief.
Boasting a main house with five garages and two three-bedroom houses for guests, it is set on a very large property with extensive security and is surrounded by high walls. Google Earth satellite photos show extensive, well-kept gardens and a swimming pool and tennis court at the rear of the property.
The house is a kilometre from an unfinished Lottery-funded old age home, which received grants of almost R24-million. The site was abandoned after the grant money ran out and local tradesmen and suppliers were left unpaid.
Letwaba has two families; one with his childhood sweetheart, Daisy, who comes from Marapyane, and another with Rebotile Malamane, whom he married early last year. They live in separate luxury homes in different gated estates in Pretoria.
Leaked bank statements from Upbrand Properties, which is closely linked to Letwaba and his family, revealed how Lottery money meant for the old age home helped fund work on the house. This included a roof deck, building material, security systems, expensive trees and shrubbery, and pricy interior decor.
Despite being a full-time NLC employee, Letwaba is also a director of a large number of companies.
Letwaba did not respond to our questions sent to him by Whatsapp and Signal.