South Africa: Gambling On Secrecy - 'Sock-Puppet Militia' Bites Off More Than It Can Chew in Trying to Silence Investigations Into Lottery Spend


The National Lotteries Commission (NLC) is a 'Goliath', funding 'worthy causes' to the tune of about R1.3-billion annually. But when a couple of media 'Davids' started investigating just how worthy some of those causes were, a ragtag 'astroturf army' sprang up to make common cause with the NLC and its bid to keep beneficiaries secret. It must have seemed like a good idea at the time, but if the plan was to silence questions, then it has backfired badly.

On 5 June an organisation calling itself the United Civil Society in Action (UCSA) resolved to institute legal action against GroundUp, a nonprofit news site which focuses on matters affecting vulnerable communities.

The UCSA resolution was aimed at stopping GroundUp from publishing details about beneficiaries awarded grants: who got money via the National Lotteries Commission (NLC), how much, and what they did with it.

A second target was the NLC itself, though this was a red herring because UCSA and the NLC were entirely on the same page regarding the need to keep beneficiaries secret, as we shall see.

This was not always the case.

For 18 years the NLC had the practice of publishing details of beneficiaries who received a...

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