The private healthcare group Netcare has admitted that it knew that ‘economist’ Thabi Leoka did not have a PhD as far back as November 2021.
Netcare did not pursue the matter further after receiving glowing references that she was a consummate professional and her integrity was beyond reproach.
Netcare made the disclosure in a statement last week, saying Leoka served on their board between March 2022 and January 2023.
She resigned due to a conflict of interest after she later took up a board position at Remgro.
Charles Vikisi, general counsel and group secretary of Netcare Limited, said they conducted a background check on Leoka, through an external specialist integrity assessment firm which found that Leoka’s highest qualification was a Masters of Arts and a Masters of Science.
The MA appears to refer to her Wits University masters degree, while the MSc refers to her masters in economic history from the London School of Economics.
Netcare said the report found she was “held in high esteem” and was a “consummate professional”, and her referees considered her “integrity to be above reproach”.
"In hindsight, we recognise that we should have pro-actively enquired why the PhD qualification, as stated on her curriculum vitae, was not reflected in the report.
“Regrettably, this diligence was not exercised,” Vikisi admitted.
He said the healthcare group “should have done more to verify the accuracy of her CV, particularly as it pertained to her PhD”.
“Valuable lessons have been learned, and our verification processes will be more robust and comprehensive, going forward,” Vikisi said.
Other industry leaders, such as Standard Bank group chief executive Sim Tshabalala, who was interviewed on Talk Radio 702 on Monday, reportedly would not answer and cited the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPIA) when asked if they had vetted Leoka.
Leoka served as the head of economic research at the bank.
Leoka has also worked as an economist for Investec, works as an Emerging Markets Economist at Barclays and as a Chief Economist for Renaissance Capital.
She was named the Economist of The Year 2017 by ABSIP - the Association of Black Securities and Investment Professionals.
Meanwhile, reports suggested Leoka had been axed from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s Presidential Economic Advisory Council on Monday. Spokesperson Vincent Magwenya had not responded. This will be updated once he has responded.
Leoka is currently in the US receiving medical attention, she told 702 last week.