Economist Thabi Leoka has denied she falsified her doctoral qualifications after an expose by a business publication claimed it was one of the reasons she had been axed from the Remgro board, a company owned by billionaire Johann Rupert.
Leoka said she would be taking legal action against Business Day for publishing the claims on Tuesday. She said she had left the board due to health reasons.
A Business Day report on Tuesday said Leoka had falsified her Economics PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE).
According to the publication, the London School of Economics had no record of Leoka’s PhD in economics qualification.
Leoka is a respected economist who regularly appears in the media providing commentary. Leoka is also one of President Cyril Ramaphosa's special economic envoys who sits on the 19-member presidential economic advisory panel.
She also runs her own economic consultancy firm, Naha Advisory.
An Masters of Science in Economics obtained in 2004 from LSE was found in her name. She passed with merit, a document from the LSE showed.
Leoka has held top positions in companies and boards, including MTN, Anglo American, Renaissance Capital, Standard Bank, Barclays Wealth, and Investec Asset Management.
Speaking to Talk Radio 702 on Tuesday, Leoka denied she had falsified her qualifications and said she had changed her names.
She said she was currently in the US to seek medical intervention for a medical condition and denied she had been fired by Remgro.
Leoka told 702 that she had changed her names with the Department of Home Affairs, saying her qualifications were in a different name.
She would not share the names publicly, but insisted she did economics and history at the London School of Economics. A 2018 Government Gazette confirmed she changed her name from Bathabile to Thabi.
“They did not use my full names. The school wouldn't confirm an incomplete name or a name not in their system. It would have been helpful if they contacted me so that I can also assist,” she said.
Leoka said she will “definitely” respond legally to the Business Day as it had “tarnished” her name, while Kabelo Khumalo, the Business Day markets editor who broke the story, tweeted he was stunned by Leoka’s public claims.
“After 20 minutes on the phone with Thabi on the phone yesterday, I am shocked to hear some of the things she said on 702,” he tweeted.
After 20 minutes on the phone with Thabi on the phone yesterday, I am shocked to hear some of the things she said on 702.— Kabelo Khumalo (@KABELOKHUMALO) January 16, 2024
Meanwhile, Leoka claimed another publication had approached her in December on the same accusations, but they ended up not writing the article after she assisted them with information in relation to her qualifications.
She claimed there was a personal vendetta against her.
She also insisted she had not been fired at Remgro, but left due to health reasons.