Companies admit to not vetting Leoka

Thabi Leoka. Picture: Supplied

Thabi Leoka. Picture: Supplied

Published Mar 15, 2024


Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) is the latest in a list of companies to concede that they had failed to follow up on a vetting process of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s former economic adviser Thabi Leoka.

Early this year, Leoka was exposed for allegedly lying about holding a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE).

She was forced to resign from a number of positions she held in top organisations, including the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), MTN SA’s board, Amplats and the private health-care group Netcare.

However, Netcare admitted they had failed to verify Leoka’s fake PhD qualification when they appointed her to stay for two years until the scandal broke.

PEAC had initially defended her and asked for her to prove to them that she held the said qualification but to no avail, prompting the Presidency to fire her.

When the lid blew on Leoka, Amplats initially reportedly said that its prospective non-executive directors were vetted before appointment.

But now, the mining giant has admitted that they had failed to verify whether Leoka had a PhD in economics.

Responding to The Star’s questions yesterday, Amplats spokesperson Keitumetse Masike said the completion of the verification process was not followed up when she was appointed.

“Thabi Leoka has recently faced allegations in the media regarding her PhD qualification. A process of verification was done on her qualifications, and the verification report confirmed that all qualifications, other than the PhD qualification, had been verified and confirmed.

“The verification of the PhD qualification was still ongoing at the time of the interview process. Regrettably, the completion of the verification process was not subsequently followed up,” Masike said.

She said governance processes at the firm had been updated to ensure that full verification reports were received by the nomination committee as part of the candidate report.

Masike confirmed that Leoka had resigned from the board on January 19 in order to “attend to her health and the questions she has been facing in relation to her academic qualifications”.

Masike, however, did not respond to questions from The Star on whether Leoka was going to face legal action by the company or whether the company had lost any credibility.

Demands for Leoka to prove once and for all that she held the qualification fell on deaf ears, with even the LSE reportedly saying they had no record of her obtaining a PhD there.

Independent Media reported early this year that Leoka could face jail time if she failed to prove that she holds a PhD in economics.

This followed after the National Qualifications Framework Amendments Act was passed last year, meaning Leoka could be facing five years in jail or be subject to a fine if she is found to have lied about her qualifications.

The law states: “If a person is found to have falsified their qualifications, they face jail time, a fine or both.”

During the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training in 2017, Leoka was called in to testify, under oath, that she indeed had obtained the qualification from the LSE, failing which she could face perjury charges.

Leoka has since denied the accusations.

She maintains that she completed her studies at the LSE and was awarded a doctorate in economics in 2008.