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Economist Thabi Leoka’s PhD appears to be a figment of her imagination

Economist Thabi Leoka’s PhD appears to be a figment of her imagination
Illustrative image | Thabi Leoka in 2019. (Photo: Gallo Images / Jeffrey Abrahams)

Thabi Leoka, regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost economists, joins a lengthy list of prominent people who have exaggerated their qualifications.

South African economist Thabi Leoka, who has been exposed for allegedly not holding a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics (LSE) as she claims, previously testified under oath before the Commission of Inquiry into Higher Education and Training that she had a PhD from the institution.

A Daily Maverick investigation could find no evidence that Leoka has been awarded a PhD from the LSE. 

For weeks, Daily Maverick has sought answers from Leoka, requesting copies of her alleged PhD certificate and thesis. Her undertaking to provide evidence has come to nothing. 

The LSE and the University of London have confirmed to Daily Maverick that they have no record of Leoka being awarded a PhD from either body.

Yet, following the publication of a Business Day article on Tuesday exposing Leoka as an alleged degree fraudster, the economist has doubled down — falsely claiming on air that Daily Maverick had cleared her of the charge and threatening legal action.

Under oath

Leoka provided expert testimony on 6 February 2017, in Pretoria, before the commission founded by former President Jacob Zuma after the #FeesMustFall protests that roiled South African university campuses in 2015.

“What are your full names please, Miss Leoka?” asked the chair of the commission, Judge Jonathan Heher, according to a transcript of the hearing. 

“Thabi Leoka,” she responded.

Heher asked: “Do you swear that the evidence that you will give will be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?”

“I do.” 

“If you do, raise your right hand and say, ‘So help me God’,” he said.

“So help me God.”

The discussion then turned to Leoka’s qualifications. She said she had five degrees: BA, honours and master’s degrees all from the University of the Witwatersrand.

“Then I did an MSC in economics and looking [sic] at economics and economic history and then a PhD in international economics at … the last two … University of London, LSE,” Leoka told the commission.

Heher asked: “And when did you get your latest degree?”

“In 2008,” Leoka replied.

In the years since appearing before the commission, Leoka has held numerous directorships as well as high-profile advisory positions to President Cyril Ramaphosa and former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. Her use of the honorific “Dr” appears in nearly every biography of her available online, and in media interviews, she is frequently introduced as “Dr” Thabi Leoka.

In 2018, “Dr” Leoka was among a panel of researchers appointed by Nene to review a list of VAT zero-rated items and terms of reference. In 2019, “Dr” Leoka was appointed by Ramaphosa to the Presidential Economic Advisory Council (PEAC), to “advise the President and government more broadly, facilitating the development and implementation of economic policies that spur inclusive growth”.

She remains on the PEAC as an adviser.

Screenshot of Thabi Leoka’s bio on the Presidential Economic Advisory Council

References to her alleged PhD are also dotted all over the internet. There’s a photo of Leoka on the website of her high school, St Cyprian’s High School. Below it is the year she matriculated — 1996. Then, “PhD, Economist”. 

She serves on the boards of several companies including Anglo American Platinum, the Small Business Institute and the Senegal-based consulting group Act-Afrique. She is also a board member of MTN SA, and in company documents, her official bio says she holds a PhD in economics from the University of London.

Additionally, “Dr” Leoka serves on the Statistics South Africa Council where she chairs the Economic Statistics Committee. She is also a former Corruption Watch board member.

Until recently, Leoka was also an independent, non-executive director at Remgro. The misrepresentation of her qualifications was allegedly one of the reasons which led to Remgro withdrawing her appointment at its annual general meeting (AGM) on 4 December, Business Day reported.

The Business Day report has catapulted Leoka to the top of the list of public figures who have misled the SA public about their qualifications.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Joburg Roads Agency boss bought a doctorate and claimed a Harvard Business School master’s degree that doesn’t exist

Read more in Daily Maverick: DA Western Cape chief Bonginkosi Madikizela does not have a BCom degree, as publicly claimed 

Leoka has repeatedly defended her phantom PhD qualification to Daily Maverick and attempted to defer or block the story, promising copies of her degree that never arrived. Despite holding high-profile positions in the public and private sectors, Leoka told Daily Maverick that as she believed she was not a public figure, the queries relating to her qualifications were unjustified.

Unfulfilled promises

When first contacted by Daily Maverick on 4 December, Leoka said in a phone call that she had a PhD degree from the University of London.

“Yes, it’s given by the University of London,” she said. 

In the call, she promised to provide Daily Maverick with copies of her PhD thesis and certificate from the institution, saying, “I’ll send you everything” — but failed to do so.

When Daily Maverick again requested proof of her alleged degree via a WhatsApp message, she replied: “I’m in meetings all day and this week is quite busy. I’m also not based in SA full time.”

A spokesperson from the London School of Economics (LSE) confirmed to Daily Maverick on 20 December: “We have checked our files and can find no record of Thabi Leoka being awarded a PhD from LSE.” 

The University of London (UoL) told Daily Maverick, “LSE is a member of the University of London federation so a student might study with LSE directly but can also correctly say that they studied with the University of London.”

The University of London itself does not offer a PhD in Economics, so Leoka could not have received a degree from the university. 

“We have looked into this query and the University of London does not oversee a PhD in economics, ” the university said in response to questions. 

After further requests by Daily Maverick to explain the responses of the LSE and the University of London and provide proof of her certificate, Leoka said: “As mentioned earlier, I’m not based in SA full time. Since we spoke, I have been at the Miami Bascom Palmer Eye Hospital as I have glaucoma and have since lost sight in my right eye. This is why I didn’t stand for Remgro nominations. I also mentioned that my degree is from the University of London and my MSc is from LSE. You also don’t have my names as reflected on my degrees. I have damaged optical nerves and shouldn’t be on the phone because of the light.”

Leoka doubles down in 702 interview

In an interview with 702’s Clement Manyathela on Tuesday morning after Business Day broke the story, Leoka stated:

“What happened is that a journalist from — initially this started in December — a journalist from the Daily Maverick who was approached by someone who obviously seems to have a personal vendetta contacted me with various questions including on my qualifications. After I sent them information and they conducted their own investigation, they then ended up not writing the article. I thought that was it, the story is dead.” 

The claims that Leoka sent Daily Maverick information and on this basis we abandoned the story are false. In fact, Daily Maverick was finalising its investigation and was due to publish a story imminently.

Leoka claimed that the time difference between South Africa and New York, where she is currently based, as well as her ongoing health issues, meant that she did not have time to respond to Business Day’s questions.

Asked directly by Manyathela if she held a PhD from the LSE, she replied: “Absolutely.” 

She claimed that she had since changed her name, and this was why neither the LSE nor the University of London had any record of her degree. (Daily Maverick requested that LSE search for Leoka under her ID number, which would not be affected by her name change, and this too failed to yield results for the PhD.)

Leoka further claimed Daily Maverick had successfully located the record of her PhD, which is false. 

She told Manyathela that proof of her degree would be provided in the course of the legal action she intends to take against Business Day. She added that the boards of all the relevant companies on which she sits had carried out vetting of her academic qualifications without issue.

Daily Maverick has established from three bodies with which Leoka was involved — Corruption Watch, the Presidency, and the Stats SA Council — that she was, in fact, never vetted for her qualifications as this was either not felt necessary or not a requirement. Anglo American has claimed to Daily Maverick that she was vetted.

Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya told Daily Maverick on Tuesday: “The Presidential Advisory Council is a non-statutory body, therefore, formal vetting is not a requirement. The members volunteer their time, and they are not employed by the Presidency, nor are they remunerated by the state. In the interest of transparency, the Presidency has requested Ms Leoka to expeditiously address the matter of her qualifications.”

Remgro’s Lwanda Zingitwa said, “Remgro is aware of the unconfirmed allegations that have been raised in the media against Thabi Leoka. Thabi Leoka was appointed as an independent non-executive director of Remgro, effective 22 March 2023 subject to shareholder approval at an AGM.

“The appointment was, however, not ratified at the Remgro AGM on 4 December 2023 as she advised the board that she opted to no longer stand for election as an independent non-executive director of the company due to personal reasons, at which point her tenure as a director of Remgro ended.”

Remgro did not respond to Daily Maverick’s question on whether it vetted Leoka’s qualifications when she joined Remgro.

There has been a rise in the number of fake qualification scandals over the years with the Protection of Personal Information Act (Popia), which came into effect in 2021, making it increasingly difficult for journalists to confirm whether prominent figures hold the degree they claim from South African universities. Daily Maverick has previously drawn attention to the difficulty in exposing degree fraudsters due to privacy laws in South Africa.

In the wake of the Business Day report on Tuesday, Daily Maverick once again asked Leoka to furnish us with proof of her degree. She had not responded by the time of publication. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Joe Soap says:

    Why do all fraudsters suffer at least one serious medical condition?

  • 217033728 says:

    This is my third year as a PhD candidate at UJ . It is not easy, I am sure faking it is even harder. From 2008, she could have obtained hers by now. I had my first degree in 2015, honours 2017, masters 2020, then started my PhD in 2022.

    • Lew Lipschitz says:

      So you’re studying to be a professional student? Try get a jib with a PhD without any work experience!

      • jason du toit says:

        nearly all people are working by the time they start a masters or doctorate and they typically continue to work while studying further. as a result they have work experience. post-graduate degrees also are usually in the fields of the students’ work.

        there are very few people who go straight from honours to masters, opting instead to enter the workforce after attaining their first degree. an honours degree is usually four years of five days a week in normal working hours going to class – the typical “university experience”. masters and doctorate degrees look very different with dispersed evening lectures and research happening after hours or while on study (read “annual” in most cases) leave. various assessments usually take place with the student taking leave to attend these.

        if you are in academia (professor, lecturer, researcher etc) it is almost a non-negotiable in order to progress on your career.

        medical degrees (the two bachelors MB and CHB to become a doctor) are followed up frequently with a masters to become a specialist.

        even a bachelors and honours in non-academia is often followed up with an MBA.

        i myself attained my degree while working, and were i to get a masters it would most defnitely be while working my fulltime job.

        just because one has many degrees does not make one a professional student.

        • Brian Cotter says:

          My partner, with a double Doctorate and ex University Professor confirms the above and she did all her studies, Undergrad and Postgrad on after hours studying. Hard work also as single parent. A Professional Student is normally reserved to Rich Daddy, or I keep on getting grants.

    • D Rod says:

      Good luck with your studies!

    • Alpha Sithole says:

      Or just get your PhD through ChatGPT university…

    • Johan Buys says:

      Two years hons.
      Three years for masters.
      Now two years into doctorate. Are you into algebraic geometry, number theory or differential geometry?

  • Kevin Venter says:

    What a great situation to have in a country (sarcasm). So individuals who don’t actually complete a degree successfully, are able to then lie about it. Since vetting it is made more difficult through legislation it means that they are likely to get away with it. Great the person who is faking it because it means they can get jobs paying a lot of money even if they are ill qualified to actually do it. I wonder how many fake doctors are actually being allowed to treat and operate on people in South Africa. Why does Africa hold itself to such a low standard that even basic stuff cannot function properly?

  • Henry Henry says:

    It’s a national sport since 1994. Like dr Pallo Jordan. And that sign language interpreter when Obama visited……😂

  • gerrie777 says:

    I am a brain surgeon moonlighting as a project manager in the construction industry… 🙄

  • Peter Oosthuizen says:

    Only a PhD? That’s nothing compared to Idi Amin who set the bar. It’s the African way – soon you believe your own lies.

  • Trenton Carr says:

    luckily for South Africa, the local media institutions are great at detecting bovine turd blossoms.

  • msiza.john1223 says:

    It should not be so difficult for Thabi Leoka to furnish Daily Maverick with a student number from where she obtained her PhD. The Institution can retrieve her qualifications by just using the student number.

  • J vN says:

    Lying, cheating and committing fraud.

    It’s just who they are.

  • Wayne Holt says:

    I just have to laugh otherwise what else can one do in this country. One day after another another affirmative liar is exposed

    • J vN says:

      The affirmative hires – and the companies that hire them – don’t see it that way. Not only the ANC, but also Anglo and MTN, clearly didn’t do the most basic HR checks on her.

      Why not? Why not do the due diligence they’d do even with junior hires?

      Because her value to them clearly lay in factors other than any economic expertise she may or not possess. This happens every day in the private sector. Prior to her inflicting more damage on Transnet, the largest formerly Afrikaans consulting engineering company hired one Portia Derby, Brian Molefe’s ex wife. They surely could not have thought that the latter could add any engineering value to their firm. She was hired at a premium for other reasons. The SA employment and corporate market seemingly attaches far more value to those other reasons than to any engineering competence, which is why she surely earned a salary that would dwarf a mere engineer’s salary. (As with Transnet, her reign at the firm was both disastrous and short-lived.)

  • Nick Griffon says:

    This is very simple.
    She either produce the evidence of the PhD or the following must happen very quickly:
    1) she must be charged with perjury.
    2) she must pay back all the money she received whilst sitting on various boards under false pretenses.
    3) she must be charged with fraud

  • Lalaland44 says:

    Another proudly South African moment – defending the indefensible

  • JM McGill says:

    Popia is a smokescreen for scoundrels to hide behind.

    A university degree is awarded in public and the existence of one is not “personal” information.

    • Con Tester says:

      Exactly right.

      Consider further that most, if not all, employers will require copies, possibly certified, of all qualifications claimed on a resumé / CV of potential employees before employing them. If, as is likely, this was also demanded in Leoka’s case by at least one of her employers and she presented a fake degree certificate, then she will have added the crime of uttering to fraud, perjury, and misrepresentation.

  • Thea Clifford Jackson says:

    In this country, under current conditions, it should be obligatory to formally vet every single academic claim without exception.

  • Tim Bester says:

    A very sad and disconcerting story.

  • Malcolm Mitchell says:

    Should be simple to resolve. If she cannot produce the Thesis then I suggest she has not got a Ph.D. I say this as the holder of two PhDs completed many years ago and can immediately place my hand on them. You o not dispose of such documents lightly.

    • Random Comment says:

      Malcolm, you are correct regarding valuable documents of this nature. I keep originals, paper copies, certified copies, scanned copies and various digital backups at hand.
      She cannot produce the PhD degree, thesis, or even proof of attendance at the university in question.
      The fact that her dishonesty and incompetence do not immediately disqualify her from holding office in the New SA is further proof of the destruction of the “good morals” (to borrow a legal term) of society since 1994.

  • Alley Cat says:

    This makes me sad. She is obviously a well qualified and intelligent woman so why does she need to lie about her PHD? Would she have got the positions if she just said she had a masters? This is a malaise in our society that needs to be addressed.

  • Jan Vos says:

    Ehrrrm. Nothing….

  • siphesihlendabaa says:

    My biggest concern with this matter is that The Presidency just assumed her as a doctor without even doing a background check. The highest level of government, how ?

    • Graeme J says:

      This is exactly the issue in all government departments. The people running the HR departments do not have the necessary skill (or will) to perform comprehensive background checks. They just bugger on regardless.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    In the land of the blind…

    Well done DM! Keep exposing these grubby people.

    If not already, falsifying credentials should absolutely be classified as a criminal offense as it has serious implications, including but not limited to, potential loss of life.

  • Jeff Robinson says:

    Such dishonesty and for what? What is especially sad is that she is obviously an intelligent and competent individual who should have never felt any compulsion to lie. But here in SA we continue with the illusion that qualifications equal competence and integrity. As a retired academic I can tell you “It ain’t necessarily so.” What we need is a Graduate Record Examination (GRE) such as is used in the USA and elsewhere, which assesses whether someone is up to snuff vis-a-vis verbal and quantitative reasoning, plus critical writing skill. Unfortunately a great number of our PHDs would not pass this. So rather prove yourself by what you are able to do and don’t give too much mind to the letters you can put after your name. I changed my accolade from Doctor Robinson to DoktaJef which at least sounds hip.

  • mrmaravanyika says:

    “As from 2019, the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act stipulates that it is a criminal offence to misrepresent qualifications. The punishment for doing so may be a hefty fine and / or imprisonment for a period of up to five years.” (

    • Middle aged Mike says:

      “The punishment for doing so may be a hefty fine and / or imprisonment for a period of up to five years.”

      That could be true but only in the Msanzi that exists in the universe parallel to ours.

  • Bewe 1414 says:

    “I have damaged optical nerves and shouldn’t be on the phone because of the light.” How does her ears connect directly to her eyes, lol. So, because of her eye issue, she can’t use her ears on the phone?

  • Kevin Schaafsma says:

    This is a very sad story. It is so damaging to South Africa and to empowerment of both black folk and women. When I consider the effort and sacrifice that has to be made in order to obtain a university degree and higher degrees in particular, this type of fraud should really be punished with direct imprisonment.

    • Frank Lee says:

      Could not agree more. Fraudulent misrepresentation and lying under oath, for starters. This seems like an incredibly clear-cut case to prosecute thanks to the above investigative journalism… they have even joined the dots and put a ribbon on it already.

    • Lew Lipschitz says:

      Nothing much left to damage..SA’s name is gat!

  • Gary Walker says:


  • mduduzi.shabalala1 says:

    Sadly we get scammed again.

  • lomic says:

    POPIA has been a convenient hiding place for these kinds of fraudsters. People with actual qualifications are happy to confirm with certified copies, instead of ongoing obfuscation.

  • Bill Gild says:

    Why waste print on this?

    • Frank Lee says:

      This might seem trivial to you Bill, but aside from being yet another criminal example of defrauding the public (and the institutions on which she served), falsely claiming credibility in a field where none exists could be very damaging to both public and personal health. Would you like to drive over bridges built by engineers with no engineering degrees, or be operated on by a medical doctor who has no such degree? Would you like to estimate the damage (monetary, but money which could be spent on a worthy cause otherwise) that erroneous policies implemented by a unqualified economist could do when they also have the President’s ear on economic policy? With respect sir, I believe this is not a waste of time.

      • Nick Griffon says:

        Agree 100%.
        This is a huge deal.

        • Kevin Venter says:

          See the thing is… It is huge deal only to a specific segment of the population. We who agree see the issue for what it is and the potential for damage. For the people who are lying and following the same course as this charlatan through life, for them it doesnt matter, if only that serious medical issue was real and if only it would be treated by one of the doctors who also have a fake degree. Wouldn’t that be the absolute irony that is needed. She is but one of thousands and much bigger problem (among the thousands of problems). Due diligence doesn’t matter when there are kickbacks and potential for kickbacks at play.

    • Ben Harper says:

      Why waste oxygen breathing Bill?

  • Middle aged Mike says:

    “Thabi Leoka, regarded as one of South Africa’s foremost economists, joins a lengthy list of prominent people who have *exaggerated their qualifications*.”

    That’s a very diplomatic way of putting it.

    • Willem Joubert says:

      Try to read her testomoney in the attached commission transcript attached in the message- I do not know how she made the cut in any serious interview

  • Nicol Mentz says:

    Anyone benefiting from affect qualification and/or degree should refund any money received while using the qualification for enumeration.

  • Greeff Kotzé says:

    “…saying, ‘I’ll send you everything’ — but failed to do so.”

    Well, at least we know she is definitely South African, then!

  • William Kelly says:

    Frankly its high time there were consequences. The companies that employed her based on her qualifications need to sue her for damages and reparations of monies paid to her under false pretenses. And whoever signed off the vetting at Anglo is deserving of a good firing too. We have plenty of people in need of work.

  • Lynda Tyrer says:

    She is digging a very deep hole for herself with all her excuses of not to answer, eye hospitals, then name change, what will the next excuse be. The fact is she allegedly lied and what is worse that NOT one of the boards actually did a check on her CV before appointing her. Honesty and integrity in South Africa is sadly lacking these days.

  • bossebriony says:

    I am apalled to hear that qualifications are not vetted by potential employers. One assumes that at any EXCO, MANCO or Board Member, including government (at any level), qualifications are subject to vetting. This should be a standard requirement. Falsifying a qualification is shameful.

    • Graeme J says:

      Falsifying a qualification is also illegal (not just shameful). Every potential employee should have their qualifications checked, not just senior staff.

  • Ian Gwilt says:

    There is another, “good doctor” featured in your paper today.
    He is rumoured to be planning to sue the Govt for Billions
    Then the, Sharp minister who says he will sue OUTA
    The clown was planning to sue De Ruyter
    I recall Frazer also threating to sue Journalists
    I wish they would hurry up, the popcorn I bought to watch the shows with is going stale

  • Peter Doble says:

    Well no one is shocked. And it doesn’t just apply to fake honorifics. Even the best qualified can get it wrong. Perhaps we attach too much prestige to “qualifications” and not enough to knowledge, merit and common sense!

  • Jimbo Smith says:

    Incredible! In a normal, value based society any person lying to the extent described above would be immediately fired from every position held. But not SA; we live in a country with ZERO consequence.

  • Ayanda Nonkwelo says:

    Cheap skate, PhD in Economics, maybe it’s Home Economics!!!

  • Simon Winde says:

    She should be prosecuted. Return all her salaries. When will SA learn that fraudsters like her actually hurt our country? Decisions made by fraudsters like her have consequences.

  • Joe Public says:

    So “Dr” gets appointed to the President’s Economic Advisory Panel and we wonder why our economy is where it is. She joins a long list of fraudsters in the world who exist only to enrich themselves. However, her crime is even worse, because she also advises the President on the country’s economics! We’ve given the keys of our candy store to bunch of kids!

  • Rae Earl says:

    This woman is anything but stupid and yet she persists in claiming the existence of her Phd in the face of mounting evidence that she is lying. So, maybe not stupid, but displaying monstrous stupidity in this saga.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    This quest for supposed Doctorates puzzles me. One wonders if her MSc too is genuine

  • People currently make a big thing about identifying as this or that. Can I identify as an astronaut and put it on my CV?

  • She also claimed that her health issue “became” degenerative in December! Degenerative diseases don’t “become” degenerative. They ARE ipso facto degenerative from jump.

    Sis should confess if there were no degrees conferred on her by both those institutions. Alternatively, she should post a link of her dissertation because we know time differences don’t preclude one’s ability to contact the registrar’s office and confirm degrees WITHOUT anybody else needing to know in what name those degrees were conferred, because that’s a whole other level of suss!!! 🤷🏽‍♀️

  • Annie Conway says:

    At first I thought that perhaps the esteemed ‘dr’ had received an honorary doctorate. South Africans are known to pass off honorary doctorates as if they’d worked for and personally qualified for it. Also often done is to be under the illusion is that a Phd =‘s a doctorate. Could this be the basis of her doctorate?

  • George 007 says:

    Dear Ms. (not Dr.) Leoka, when you’re in a hole, stop digging.

  • vnwray says:

    Since the incidences of fake qualifications are on the rise, and many employees are paid higher salaries for higher qualifications, there must surely be a legal way to check the validity of claims made by applicants and prospective appointees. It may also be a deterrent if fakers were made to pay back to the institution that part of their salary that was based on their fake qualifications and the enormous salaries paid while they were suspended pending an enquiry. They should not benefit from fraud.

  • Agf Agf says:

    I just do not understand why institutions like Anglo and Remgro do not properly vett candidates. This happens time and time again especially for government positions. It’s really not difficult. There are agencies who will do it for you.

  • Lew Lipschitz says:

    She is involved with Corruption Watch…oh, the irony!

  • Alan Watkins says:

    Some years ago, I went part of the way to emigrating and needed certain academic docs. Firstly, certified copies of degrees/ problem as I had originals. Secondly, academic records from UCT from where I obtained two of my degrees. This seemed very difficult as i had graduated 20 years before but UCT provided lengthy academic records within days. I believe it is not difficult to get such records and confirmation of degrees from universities. They are absolutely geared up to provide these! If they cant provide them, or if they cannot confirm to a third party, then those degrees do not exist.

  • This is stupefying , how do these people believe that in an age of information and the ability to verify information, that they can get away with this kind of behavior. Maybe the old adage of “the more you repeat the lie, the more believable it becomes”. She should be fired from all of her positions.

  • Peter Worman says:

    The times fast approaching when we’ll have to vet our doctors and specialists just to make sure the person is actually qualified

  • Penny Philip says:

    She had 5 Degrees already. Why didn’t she just do a PHD instead of fraudulently claiming to have one?? Unless it was a prerequisite to being a director on some of the companies whose board she’s on. Bizarre.

  • Terril Scott says:

    Masters is a requirement to study for a PhD; BA Honours is a requirement to work toward a Masters; a BA precedes a BA Honours. Time to begin checking the back trail.

    • Con Tester says:

      Generally, yes, but I’m aware of a few cases where rungs have been jumped, the most extreme one being from B.Sc. (sans honours), to Ph.D. by dissertation. In that case, what started as an honours project was deemed so remarkably insightful and valuable that the student was encouraged to expand the work and then submit it as a doctoral thesis—which they did successfully.

  • John Patson says:

    There is a fixation with Phds which leads to such sad stories.
    A Phd is a degree to work as a high-level academic — the thesis has to be new research which furthers human knowledge.
    Something which is good for academics, but irrelevant for the rest of us.
    And for every academic post there are around 30 Phd students.
    It is an incredibly wasteful system, except for the universities.
    They get low paid, or no-pay post graduate researchers for the two or three years, a Phd takes.
    The candidates get the same time not earning much or anything, and waving goodbye to early retirement.
    From the story, the master degrees held by Leoka, will have qualified her very well for the jobs she was appointed to, especially if they had “vocational” modules — things like analysing large scale data to see how a business can benefit, — very relevant with AI advances.
    But instead, the determining factor was a Phd, a degree for those with heads in the clouds. And that, apparently led to fraud.

  • ronnieg says:

    One need to ask the question does these Boards and company carry out vetting on these candidates It is obvious they did not vet her qualification. Some of these boards just go an appointed her on face and popularity value.
    One would expect government or organ of state to appoint dodgy characters, not the private sector.
    How did Phala Phala appoint her, I suppose the same principal as he appoints his cabinet?
    What is the consequence for falsifying her C.V. The media must expose those private companies.

  • Phillip O'connor says:

    There in lay the problem, appointed to various Boards, and then when exposed, cannot comply with a simple request. Surely, as she so vehemently states, that she changed her name, let Daily Maverick know what name she obtained her Ph.D in, this should settle the matter. It is easier to find reason as to why one is unable to when the pressure is applied. If you do not have the degree as stated, the be upfront and confess.

  • Yaakov Rashi says:

    One has to wonder if this is the culture of operations at the ANC?

  • Willem Joubert says:

    Having read a as large a part of the attached “testimony”attached to the article I am very scared about how far companies have to go to get BBBEE people on their boards. Obviously she only fill a seat and never adds any value, or gives any Direction to the company- as a Director’s title implies. Obviously the last E in BBBEE is not achieved. Perhaps it should be changed to W for windowdressing.
    How long will it take for competent, intelectual people of colour( of which there are many) to be givven their rightfull space in buisiness and society. Fakesters and hot air political caders are doing the country a lot of damage and create a false image that people of colour is not capable. I wish we can start judging people on merit not political connections and affiliations.
    Together and with sound principles we can build a better county for all.

  • Egmont Rohwer says:

    How unusual! Hahahahahahahaha

  • Wayne Holt says:

    “There were no dollars in my couch no no no” according to Parliament, ANC ethics committee, Public Protector – “where did you get that idea from”

  • Flapster Karos says:

    Enter the grandiloquent saga of our protagonist, the self-proclaimed possessor of a PhD, a character so entangled in the web of academic ambiguity that one can’t help but marvel at the cosmic ballet of uncertainty that surrounds their purported title. One moment, they bravely assert, “They have a PhD,” only to retreat into the shadows of doubt with a meek, “Do they really have a PhD?”

    As the narrative unfolds, the protagonist grapples with the enigma of the correct nomenclature gracing their alleged PhD. The elusive title slips through their fingers like quicksilver, leaving them in a perpetual state of scholarly schizophrenia. Is it a genuine testament to their intellectual prowess, or merely a mirage in the desert of their academic aspirations?

    “Why, oh why, do you seek their PhD?” one might question, as if it were the philosopher’s stone of erudition. Is it a coveted passport to the ivory towers of knowledge, or just a charlatan’s ruse to navigate the corridors of inflated self-importance?

    The whereabouts of this prized PhD remain shrouded in mystery. Does it rest in the dusty recesses of their attic, sandwiched between relics of forgotten aspirations? Or has it embarked on a clandestine journey to the university’s archives, seeking sanctuary amidst the hallowed halls of academia?

    Fear not, dear DM, for our protagonist is resolute in their commitment to bestow upon you the elusive treasure that is their PhD! There’s just a minor hiccup: locating said document in the labyrinth of their possessions. The quest for the elusive PhD persists, akin to a whimsical scavenger hunt through the disarray of their existence.

    Rest assured, a digital copy of the esteemed PhD will be dispatched forthwith, once the elusive beast has been successfully corralled. Join us in the suspenseful spectacle of the PhD pursuit, where truth and academic titles intertwine in a dance as bewildering as our protagonist’s attempt to grasp that elusive piece of paper.

  • Billy Gildy says:

    I am not interested in who is pushing the vendetta. The fact is that if it takes you more than 30 mins to p4ovide proof of your certificate, you don’t have it. Finish amd klaar.

  • Billy Gildy says:

    At least John Steenhuisen dors not lie about his matric.

  • Billy Gildy says:

    The funny thing is that without a PhD, she has a decent enough academic resume for the positions she has occupied.
    What was the need for the lie?

  • Why do you need to attack this student out of nowhere? There are jobs for which a PhD is a prerequisite (mine, for example). And the process of doing a PhD itself gives you experience. Please don’t comment on things which you don’t really understand.

  • Just Me says:

    This is so typical of the ANC. Everything, absolutely everything is fake or fraudulent.

  • Mark Penwarden says:

    This would all go away and become a non-issue if she just took 5 minutes to send her qualifications. She most likely has an assistant or staffer that could do it for her so that a busy schedule and ‘…not based in SA full-time.’ would be moot excuses. Why would anyone want to endure the wrath of the media simply because they can’t manage a little admin.

  • Norman Sander says:

    She is lying, just like a whole lot of other wannabee’s

  • Peter Holmes says:

    As a retired academic, I’m interested in this case from the academic perspective. Claiming to have been awarded a PhD (and I’m not talking an honorary degree) when the degree was never conferred (you might have registered, or not completed) is as serious as wilful plagiarism of another’s work and/or ideas. Both are intellectual fraud, never mind any financial gain, and make you an academic pariah.

    • Kevin Venter says:

      None of the people who have a false academic degree care. It is only the people who have achieved their degree by hard work and sacrifice who know what it means to have succeeded in that. For the charlatans of the world, they don’t care. We can call them any adjective under the sun, they won’t care. It is merely a means to get their hands on more money and elevate their status. Why would you want to work for anything when there are zero consequences for stealing it instead, which is also much faster.

  • D Rod says:

    ANC and Ramaphosa are obsessed by presenting super successful blacks at any cost. And there is fundamentally nothing wrong with it BUT, the shortcuts are taken. My personal experience, a medical professional, lauded by Ramaphosa, completely misdiagnosed and insisted that I urgently do a life-changing operation (by that person obviously). I went for a second opinion and 10 years later, I am perfectly fine – no operation was needed (which would be seriously impacting my lifestyle and income). All in eagerness to prove the success stories by overpromoting individuals in question.

  • tokologomas says:

    Where there is smoke there is fire, genrally speaking. Why not run the course of this allegation before smearing someone like Thabi. She conducts herself in a sober and respectable manner.
    Give us some material news Victoria.

  • Senzo Moyakhe says:

    🎼🎵 It was just my imagination, running away with me. It was just my imagina-ation, running away with me… 🎵🎼

    (Apologies to The Temptations)

  • eish Effedup says:

    So sick of all this lying , fraud and corruption. It is never ending

  • drew barrimore says:

    A possible fraudster and liar advising the ANC President? On economics? Dare one draw conclusions?

  • Heinrich Holt says:

    We (not “they”) are so uptight about titles.

  • Matthew Quinton says:

    This is a case of “dont blame the players, blame the game”

    This BS was all created by BBEEE where this ridiculous quota based system forces companies to hunt for unicorns and hire from a non-existant talent pool instead of giving jobs to the MANY MANY MANY qualified and brilliant people who have.

    Apparently from the comments above I am not allowed to describe who “they” are, but I can tell you that every “not they” with a qualification is leaving for the many countries that pay properly and value their education and ability more than their “they-ness”.

  • Alpha Sithole says:

    POPI act and FICA seem to protect the ‘rights of criminals? Cant verify qualifications and can’t trace people who scam people using bank accounts… what’s the point?

  • One small leak in a battleship engine room can sink the ship.

    I assume a ‘small lie’ can also sink a human?

  • Joseph du Hecquet says:

    what crooks

  • Patrick O'Shea says:

    PhD in being economical with the truth.

  • Jabu Mhlanga says:

    So very unlike you Doctor…used to listen and watch you ardently. Good luck with PhD.

  • Jean Racine says:

    A master’s from Wits and MSc from LSE, for what good reason did she piss on a stellar corporate career by seemingly inventing a PhD?
    Unless she was planning a switch to the academy, this makes no logical sense.
    Perhaps something as base as the egotistical thrill of “Dr”?

  • Hello There says:

    Asking for evidence is white supremacy and indicates racist intent!

    Wondering why this hasn’t come up yet…

  • Ryan hermanson says:

    People have always lied and people will continue to do so. What has changed, is now, in spite of irrefutable proof, they maintain their lies. It used to be nice when they used to acknowledge the lie once they were caught!

  • @redsmoke78 @redsmoke78 says:

    haibo! sho sho sho! wena, you must never!

  • Mkulu Zulu says:

    Hmmm, a BBBEE PhD I presume, Universities in SA have been handing them out willy nilly for years now!
    The proof is in the pudding, look at the mess Municipalities and Government Engineering Departments are in.
    My case rests!

  • Jehan Bektir says:

    Perhaps she is accredited by the School for Higher Intensive Training run by Pallo Jordan ?

  • Deon de Wet-Roos says:

    For us who have come by our PhD and MBAs in a legitimate way, i.e. blood sweat and tears it is a travesty to find so many wannabe PhDs in South Africa. It is not necessarily the person who is committing fraud by falsely saying they have a PhD but rather those who actually follow these “influencers” on Linkedin and other social media. If there are anyone from Stellenbosch university reading this with a PhD from this institution, note that I’ve approached the university (convocation) to try and persuade them to start a database of every student with a legitimate MSc, MBA and PhD. Sad to say I’ve not heard anything to date.

  • Bubu Mkh says:

    It’s obvious, she does not have a PhD. As for the presidency, No further question My Lord.

  • Bubu Mkh says:

    This reminds me of ‘Dr Chosa’ years back who used to be a Lecturer but never had even Matric

  • Peter Smith says:

    This is only the tip of the iceberg. There is also a large scheme happening at universities where students are legitimately awarded degrees which they did not complete themselves. With so many millionaires in the public service, they pay other students to write their dissertations. And the ROI is good as they receive a pay hike after receiving their degree. They end up being promoted. Most of their colleagues are too clueless to pick this up and most of the ministers are unqualified or incompetent. And then they delegate their work so no one notices they can’t operate Word or Excel.

  • Belinda Cavero says:

    Unbelievable! I saw first had how darn hard my husband worked for his PhD. Shameful for anyone to claim the Dr title falsely. This weekend I will attempt to write to all those companies on whose boards Ms “Whatever her real name is” Laoka and insist she be removed. I can’t stand such arrogance.

  • Deirdre Byrne says:

    As an academic, I want to applaud The Daily Maverick for this work, which helps to keep intact the integrity of the degrees we award. As for Leoka and her fake PhD … “tale as old as time”.

  • Leslie van Minnen says:

    Was tuned into Cape Talk this week and heard how an interview about how well “Brand South Africa” was selling this country at Davos.

    Now we get more thieves and crooks who follow in the steps of the ANC who are hell bent on self enrichment and the destruction of what’s left of our country.
    Loved the comment by a reader on what should be done:
    1. Supply this persons student number to the institution for verification.
    2. If not verified then prosecute for perjury and fraud.
    3. Reclaim all stolen money and send this thief to prison.
    Will it happen? Not likely in a country that thrives on immoral values and gets away with this. The ANC and their commie stooges are a perfect example of this.

  • anton.kriel says:

    Well if you really had a PhD, you would’ve ended speculation long ago by providing proof asap.
    So by default you proofed DM to be right and you to be a fraudster, end of discussion.

  • tokologomas says:

    mxm and I believed her…
    what an uneccessary lie!

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