Lottery whistleblower is one of five South Africans to win international award

Mzukisi Makatse recognised by Blueprint for Free Speech

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Mzukisi Makatse, who refused to sign off on a National Lotteries Commission grant and was fired, has won an international whistleblower award. Archive photo: Raymond Joseph

Former National Lotteries Commission employee Mzukisi Makatse, who paid a high price for blowing the whistle on a dodgy Lottery grant, has won an international award that celebrates whistleblowers.

Makatse is one of five South Africans whose bravery in the face of personal danger has earned them the award. Several other South Africans have been recipients of these awards in previous years.

A total of 11 whistleblowers from around the world were acknowledged in the annual awards presented by Blueprint for Free Speech, a charity which works to promote freedom of expression. The winners will receive £2,000 - about R47,500 - each.

When Makatse refused to follow an instruction to sign off on a multimillion-rand Lottery grant for a for-profit music festival, he was suspended and subsequently dismissed. The grant was paid out within days of his suspension.

After losing his job, he fell into a depression which damaged his relationship with his fiancée, who is also the mother of his two children. He also lost his car because he could not keep up the payments and was forced to move into a small room inside a factory in an industrial area of East London, while he tried to get back onto his feet.

Earlier this year, GroundUp published an impassioned plea by Makatse and fellow Lottery whistleblower Sello Qhinas highlighting the plight of employees who “lost their jobs for blowing the whistle on irregularities, malfeasance, and corruption at the NLC”.

Both are being considered for compensation for what they went through, as part of a reparation process the NLC is undertaking.

The other South Africans who won a Blueprint for Free Speech award in 2023 are

  • Mathapelo More, a former internal auditor at Daybreak Farms, who said that the consequences were “harsh” after she blew the whistle on corruption inside the company;
  • Johannah Phenya, of Foursight IT Business Solutions, who with her husband Marumo Phenya, blew the whistle on a grant involving a Home Affairs official. Marumo Phenya was assassinated in 2022 when gunmen opened fire on his car just after he had dropped his children off at school, but Johannah Phenya continued to testify in the disciplinary hearing against the official; and
  • Dawood Khan and Wardah Latief, who blew the whistle on a major South African money laundering scheme, and revealed how officials at Standard Bank, ABSA and Sasfin Bank helped a gold smuggling gang launder millions of dollars.
TOPICS:  National Lotteries Commission

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