South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has dismissed economist Thabi Leoka from his Presidential Economic Advisory Council following allegations that she lied about having a PhD from the London School of Economics (LSE).
Several South African publications, including Business Day and Daily Maverick, have attempted to verify her PhD but have found no record of it.
Ms. Leoka has denied misrepresenting her qualifications, but on Monday, she was forced to resign from the boards of two prominent companies, Anglo American Platinum Limited and MTN SA.
On the same day, she was informed of the immediate termination of her membership in the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, according to Mr. Ramaphosa’s spokesman, Vincent Magwenya.
Concerns have been raised about the lack of proper vetting for Leoka’s appointment. Magwenya stated that formal vetting is not a requirement for membership in the council.
SurgeZirc SA reached out to the LSE for confirmation of Ms. Leoka’s doctorate, but the institution could not find any record of her being awarded a PhD.
Ms. Leoka claims that she has been occupied and has not had the opportunity to obtain her degree certificate.
She explained that she has been receiving treatment for glaucoma at the Miami Bascom Palmer Eye Hospital, which has resulted in the loss of sight in her right eye.
She also mentioned that her degrees may have been awarded under a different name, which could explain the difficulty in finding evidence of her PhD.
Ms. Leoka may face charges in South Africa under the National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act, which was enacted last year. This act makes it an offense to knowingly provide false or misleading information about academic qualifications.
It remains to be seen how this controversy will unfold and what consequences it may have for Ms. Leoka’s professional reputation and future opportunities.