Bonginkosi Madikizela’s claim to fame until last month was that he was the leader of the Democratic Alliance in the Western Cape and the MEC for Transport and Public Works in that province. He has now resigned from both positions, following his outing as an academic fraudster who passed himself off as the holder of a bachelor’s degree in some field or other.
Ex-MEC Madikizela (oops, they call them Ministers down there) is one of many South Africans who are so uncomfortable in their academic skin that they embellish their CVs with all manner of degrees, including doctorates in some cases. Pallo Jordan immediately comes to me, and so too does Mohau Pheko. The former is an erudite fellow who played a prominent role in the anti-apartheid struggle before serving in government as a Cabinet Minister. When the demon of impersonation possessed him, he led all of us to believe that he had been through the portals of the London School of Economics, graduating with a PhD. At the time of his outing, in 2014, he was a Parliamentarian. He did the honourable thing – he resigned. Pheko, scion of erstwhile Pan Africanist Congress leader Motsoko Pheko, got herself appointed as South Africa’s high commissioner to Canada in 2010. Presumably, her academic credentials, which included a doctorate that later turned out to be fake, played no small part in landing her the coveted posting. She would subsequently serve as ambassador to Japan.
South Africans will also remember Daniel Mthimkhulu; he is the fellow who walked into the chief engineer’s post at the Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA) on the strength of an engineering doctorate that he never had and went on to procure trains that are too tall for this country’s rail infrastructure. It was later revealed that all he had by way of educational qualifications was a diploma from the Vaal University of Technology. When he was finally ejected from PRASA, after 63 months, he had drawn more than R15-million in remuneration.
Then there is Shabir Schaik, the Durban fellow who was jailed for greasing former President Jacob Zuma’s palms but did not serve all his sentence after receiving a Presidential pardon. When I am in Durban next and I happen to bump into him, the conversation I will have with him will go something like this:
Me: How do you do, Mr Schaik?
He: (tugging at his goatie in an apparent effort to place me) Hi, um . . . I don’t seem to remember you.
Me: (with a smile dancing across my face) Oh, I’m Martin Zhuwakinyu, ex-university professor; discipline, English literature. The professorship was of the emeritus type, so you can still call me Professor Z.
You guessed it – I was never a varsity don; someone on my family tree was. But according to Schaik’s logic that’s reason enough for me to call myself professor. Remember, this is the fellow who, when he was running Nkobi Holdings, made sure that all company documents had ‘MSc’ after his name. Just like Mthimkhulu, as far as education goes, all he has to his name is a modest diploma from a university of technology. When he was cornered about this deception, Schaik mumbled to his inquisitor that he faked his master’s degree because all his siblings were educated to at least that level.
Academic fraud must be viewed in a very serious light. It is indicative of a dishonest, nay criminal, mindset. Witness the corruption that Schaik perpetrated at Nkobi. It’s little wonder that the South African authorities passed a law in 2019 that can see one go to jail for claiming qualifications one does not have.
So, instead of obsessing with Pravin Gordhan, our litigious friends from the Economic Freedom Fighters should be going after people like Madikizela.