BOGUS STREET CRED
Joburg Roads Agency lowered job qualifications and boosted salary level for CEO with fake doctorate
Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo says he does not know suspended Joburg Roads Agency boss Tshepo Mahanuke, who claimed he was a mentor. The Gauteng government has ordered a forensics investigation into Mahanuke’s former company.
The Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) lowered the qualifications for the CEO role to accommodate Tshepo Mahanuke, whom it suspended after a Daily Maverick investigation. This revealed he traded on a purchased honorary doctorate and a Harvard master’s degree that doesn’t exist.
The agency lowered the engineering and post-graduate job requirements for the agency’s chief. It boosted the salary to R3.5-million a year — more than double what the city’s mayor, Mpho Phalatse, earns. She is an actual doctor and makes R1.4-million a year.
The graphic above tells the story of how the JRA manipulated its job specs to accommodate Mahanuke. His previous business, the Gauteng Technical Manufacturing Initiative (GTMI), is facing a forensic investigation by the government for squandering millions of rands and producing nothing.
The 34-year-old Mahanuke’s only work experience was at GTMI, where he claimed to have “created” 11,000 jobs — according to his resumé. The Gauteng government says it contracted the GTMI to provide 1,000 retained and new work opportunities and to train 600 technical students for jobs.
Auditors raised red flags about Mahanuke and his team’s management.
“The organisation in question is the subject of a forensics investigation,” the Gauteng Department of Economic Development said in a statement.
Mahanuke quit the GTMI two weeks after the department asked what had happened to the money since 2018, when funding began.
In August 2022, the JRA appointed him with a reportedly fake salary slip. He ended up earning R3.5-million a year, more than any previous CEO of the roads agency. Yet, Johannesburg’s roads are in a dire state and have been for a long time.
“The status of the [road] network ranges from poor to very poor and requires rehabilitation or reconstruction,” according to the latest JRA quarterly report. The report says 68 city bridges need urgent repair. There are constantly an average of 45,000 potholes across the city, even as the private insurance sector’s Pothole Patrol says it has fixed more than 60,000 potholes since May 2021.
This dangerous problem was reported @MyJRA on 7 Sept, 28 October, AND 10 November. Large section of tar road entirely missing Main Rd Melville before Auckland Ave. No response. DANGEROUS situation on this dual carriageway in Melville. Please advise, @MyJRA and @CityofJoburgZA?
— Alison (@iLov3Mu51c) November 26, 2022
Commuting in the city is a hazard, especially in the rainy season and with now permanent power cuts, either by Eskom or City Power, the Johannesburg energy utility. The city’s infrastructure is severely underfunded and the JRA has appointed two dodgy leaders in succession.
Visit Daily Maverick’s home page for more news, analysis and investigations
The graphic shows that since 2017, the JRA has steadily dropped qualification requirements and hiked the salary of its chief executive. When Mahanuke applied in 2022, the agency had changed the job specs to an NQF Level 7 qualification and a bachelor’s degree, adding “operations management” as a requirement. Mahanuke graduated in operations management.
“In the provision and operation of such infrastructure, the senior executive of the JRA must have a good background in civil engineering, both in educational qualification and in their professional experience as essential technical competencies. Such a person would require a fundamental knowledge of structural engineering, bridge design and construction, and engineering materials analysis,” said Professor Yunus Ballim, professor emeritus at the School of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Wits University. Ballim has studied the state of Johannesburg’s highways for the JRA.
“I expect that the CEO would have working knowledge and experience with urban planning and engineering infrastructure project management,” said Ballim.
“I would also expect that the person would demonstrate competence at the master’s degree level (without necessarily having a master’s degree) — which is an ability to formulate research-based investigation questions. Of course, this is aside from the expected management and leadership competencies that are normally required of such a position.”
Mahanuke did not satisfy the work experience requirement of 10 years in senior management with five years at the executive level, as set out in the job ads. Then, the JRA board signed off on a salary hike higher than the Department of Co-operative Government gazetted, which sets management salary levels for municipal government.
The graphic above shows that Mahanuke was offered a salary that exceeded the highest allowable package for a Category 10 municipality (usually the biggest metros), where the best-qualified candidates should get an annual maximum of R3.147-million.
Mahanuke only got his B.Tech in operations management in 2018.
The JRA has put Mahanuke on paid leave (about R290,000 a month) pending an investigation due today, November 30. Board chairperson Thabo Motloung said Mahanuke’s credentials would be “re-authenticated”.
Still, the Daily Maverick investigation shows the city authenticated neither his qualifications nor his experience ahead of his appointment. The JRA and the City of Johannesburg first said Mahanuke’s credentials had been independently vetted, then said they had only been internally vetted after the lies started revealing themselves as Daily Maverick peeled the onion.
Pay to play
ActionSA’s MMC for Transport, Funzi Ngobeni, endorsed Mahanuke’s qualifications in a statement on 17 November. Whistle-blowers revealed that Mahanuke insisted on being called “Doctor” despite his honorary doctorate from a Christian college called Trinity International University of Ambassadors (TIUA) in Illinois, US. The only way to get the honorary title is to pay, as can clearly be understood from the Trinity website.
“No evidence has been presented to me that Mr Mahanuke offered any inducements in return for an honorary award,” said Ngobeni, who added that he would not answer further questions until the investigation is completed.
Ngobeni said Mahanuke’s “doctorate” did not play a part in his getting the job. Still, this clip from an interview the JRA boss did with the city’s media service when he started working earlier in 2022 shows that he foregrounded being a “Doctor” and also said he was a Harvard graduate.
The master’s degree in Competitive Intelligence he claimed does not exist; neither does a Free State certificate Mahanuke claimed on his CV. Mahanuke also claimed Deputy Finance Minister David Masondo as a mentor.
“Deputy Minister Masondo and Mr Mahanuke worked in the same building years back in Rosslyn Supplier Park in Pretoria when the deputy minister was CEO of the Automotive Industry Development Centre and Mr Mahanuke was CEO of the Gauteng Tooling Initiative. That is the extent of their relationship,” said the National Treasury.
The suspended CEO also said he is a member of the Southern Africa Research and Innovation Management Association, but he is not listed on its register of professionals.
City asks for patience
Mahanuke did not only fool the city administration in Johannesburg and the Gauteng government. This image below from a Facebook post shows that Dan Kgwadi, the former vice-chancellor of the Vaal University of Technology and now a North-West University professor, believed Mahanuke to be a fellow professor.
The certificates Mahanuke submitted with his job application show Trinity also “conferred” on him the title of a professorship in Business Intelligence in December 2021.
Trinity is associated with the Evangelical Free Church of America and is ranked 1,759 out of 2,576 schools in the US, according to the College Factual 2022 analysis. Out of 102 colleges in Illinois, TIUA is ranked at number 74 and 82, respectively, in two different ranking systems.
It sells franchises to entrepreneurs who confer degrees for a price and then hold graduations with gowns. On its website, the TIUA says: “The expedient way of showing the world your knowledge, abilities, experience and talents is with your degree and use of your titles.”
Ngobeni’s office said it would not comment on Daily Maverick’s further questions, but would refer these to investigators. “We ask for patience while the process nears completion,” his office said. DM