Ramaphosa demands transparency from economist Thabi Leoka

President Cyril Ramaphosa has requested renowned economist and entrepreneur Thabi Leoka to address questions surrounding her academic qualifications.

This after Johanessburg-based newspaper Business Day alleged on Tuesday that Leoka does not hold a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics as she claims.

Leoka, who also serves on the boards of several companies including Anglo American Platinum and MTN SA, was appointed by Ramaphosa in 2019 to the Presidential Economic Advisory Council.
Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana appointed Leoka to review the zero-rated products to support low-income household after the value-added tax increase to 15% from 14%.
Presidency wants answers

“The Presidential Advisory Council is a non-statutory body, therefore, formal vetting is not a requirement,” said Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya.

“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.”

Leoka said she intends to take legal action against Business Day for publishing a story.

Speaking to Clement Manyathela on Radio702 on Tuesday morning, Leoka maintained that she has a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics, adding that she is willing to provide the necessary documentation to prove this.

Business Day reported that it has it on good authority that Leoka does not hold a PhD in economics from the London School of Economics.

Personal vendetta

Leoka told the radio station that this “false” story is pushed by someone who has a “personal vendetta” against her.

“I did not misrepresent my qualifications. The answer is a straight no [to the question if she misrepresented her qualifications],” said Leoka.

“Initially this [story] started in December [last year] by a journalist from the Daily Maverick, who was approached by someone who obviously seems to have a personal vendetta [against me].

“The [Daily Maverick] journalist contacted me with various questions including on my qualifications. I sent them [Daily Maverick journalist] the information and they did their own investigation. They ended up not doing the article.”

Leoka explained further: “I thought that was it and that the story was dead. But obviously the person who gave the story to the journalist was not happy that it was not published.

“The person went to Business Day and the publication contacted me yesterday [Monday]. Because of the seven-hour time difference [between New York, the US and South Africa], I only saw the message at 3pm South African time.

“I saw the headline and it is false.”

She said it is factually incorrect that Remgro withdrew her appointment from its board in December due to her not allegedly having a PhD in economics.

“There was no firing that happened. I opted not to be nominated to the board due to health issues. I have a condition called degenerative glaucoma.

“That is why I am in the US to seek medical intervention.”

Legal action

She added that Business Day did not use her full names when verifying if she holds the qualification.

“They didn’t use my full names. Without using the right names, the school wouldn’t verify or confirm a name that is incomplete or not in their system.

“I changed my names with Home Affairs … I do not know what Business Day did. I don’t know which names they used.

“I will definitely be responding legally … This is tarnishing on someone’s personality and has implications on their professional life. It is an unfortunate story.

“It is tarnishing and I will definitely be taking legal action. I can prove that I have a PhD. All will be in the legal documents.

“Boards have vetting processes, so I am not as worried. I have been through that [vetting process], but it is what it is,” said Leoka.

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