The CEO of the Doves Group and 3Sixty Life, Khandani Msibi, has urged South Africans to not dismiss economist Thabi Leoka’s achievements.
This comes after Leoka was accused of faking her PhD degree which she purportedly attained from the London School of Economics (LSE). Leoka, who served as economic advisor to President Cyril Ramaphosa, is said to have only a Master’s degree.
According to Independent Media, the economist has denied she falsified her doctoral qualifications after an expose by a business publication which claimed it was one of the reasons she had been axed from the board of Remgro, a company owned by billionaire Johann Rupert.
Leoka has indicated that she will be taking legal action against “Business Day” for publishing the claims on Tuesday. She said she left Remgro for health-related reasons.
In Leoka’s defence, Msibi pointed out that even the founder of Remgro, Johann Rupert, was a university drop-out. A qualification beyond the first two degrees added little to one’s capabilities, he added.
“If Thabi has an MSc in economics then the misunderstanding about fake or not fake PhD is not the reason she is in trouble. A PhD person in economics is not more knowledgeable and competent than a Master’s. In fact, any form of education beyond your first degree doesn’t add much to you, worse a PhD. I mean our boss is a university dropout so he can’t fire you for overstating your meaningless qualifications. People must not throw the bath water (out) with the baby, people must not be destroyed for such small acts of foolishness. I mean you guys forgave people who admitted to manipulating the currency,” Msibi said on X on Wednesday.
According to a report by “Business Day”, the London School of Economics has no record of Leoka’s PhD in economics qualification.
Leoka is a respected economist who regularly appears in the media providing commentary. She is also one of Ramaphosa's special economic envoys who sits on the 19-member presidential economic advisory panel.
Another X user called Msibi out for his comment, saying academic fraud was a big deal.
“There's a difference between honorary and academic achievement. Justifying fraudulent claims is not going to make it better for her.
“Your message comes across as if it's okay to make false claims about your achievements. Does it also justify all those in government and politics that have made false claims?” the user said.
The controversy over Leoka comes amid Umalusi’s announcement that over the last six months, police have arrested at least 11 people in connection with the buying and selling of fake certificates.
Umalusi CEO Mafu Rakometsi confirmed these reports.
“Since the (National Senior Certificate exams) State of Readiness Media Briefing held on October 13 2023 during which we, amongst others, informed the public about the safeguards implemented to ensure the authenticity and credibility of Umalusi certificates, 11 suspects have been arrested,” he said.
“The first two suspects were arrested in Burgersfort in Limpopo on October 27, one suspect was arrested in Pretoria in November, the next three were arrested on November 20, and the last five were nabbed on December 13 in Burgersfort.”
Last year, Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane joined the ranks of prominent leaders who have been accused of academic fraud at the University of Fort Hare.