South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, Mohau Pheko, was lying low on Friday after revelations that she claimed to have a doctorate on her CV that she never received.
Amid calls from the opposition DA for her immediate recall and suspension, a tired-sounding Pheko initially answered a call from Independent Newspapers around 10pm Japanese time, but ended it abruptly when she was asked to confirm the story.
She has, however, told the SABC she regretted claiming to have the degree, saying that while she had worked towards her PhD, the university she was studying at had closed down before awarding it to her.
The Financial Mail reported that Pheko had made the same claim on her CV when she was posted to Canada in 2010, but had corrected it when the Canadians raised the alarm.
She returned from Canada in 2011 and was posted to Japan a year later, where she reinstated the non-existent PhD on her CV, and presented herself as Dr Pheko.
The Department of International Relations and Co-operation declined to comment, as did the Canadian high commission and the Japanese embassy.
Yesterday, DA spokeswoman on international relations Sandy Kalyan said President Jacob Zuma, as the appointing authority for diplomatic postings, should act to avoid further international embarrassment.
Pheko should be suspended pending an inquiry, she said. Kalyan said she had also written to the chairman of Parliament’s international relations oversight committee, ANC MP Moses Masango, asking for an inquiry to be launched “without delay”.
Masango, who was believed to be in his constituency in Mpumalanga, could not be reached for comment.
According to the Financial Mail, Pheko claimed to have received her doctorate from LaSalle University in Louisiana in the US, but it had been shut down by the FBI by the time she claimed to have graduated in 2000.
It was closed in 1996 after being exposed for selling academic qualifications online.
Pheko is the latest in a series of public figures to be exposed for misrepresenting their qualifications.
SABC board chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala resigned in December last year after a parliamentary inquiry which heard she never qualified for either the BComm or diploma she had listed on her CV.
SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng was found by Public Protector Thuli Madonsela to have lied when he claimed to have passed matric when he first applied for a job at the broadcaster.
ANC MP Pallo Jordan resigned his seat and apologised last year after it emerged he did not have a doctorate, despite having described himself for many years as Dr Pallo Jordan.