It seems like hardly a month goes by without another scandal in South Africa of people in high positions being exposed for faking their qualifications. These are just a few of that growing trend: In July 2014 the media reported that SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala had lied about her qualifications. It took Tshabalala almost six months to resign from her position after the allegations surfaced.
â€¨ANC stalwart and MP, Pallo Jordan was also exposed for lying about his qualification. In August last year it was revealed that contrary to what is stated on his CV, he did not have any qualifications from the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the London School of Economics. Unlike Tshabalala, Jordan acknowledged his error and resigned from his position as MP soon after he was exposed.
â€¨SA Airways Board Chairperson Dudu Myeni and Acting CEO, Nico Bezuidenhout were also accused of misinterpreting their qualifications. Myeni listed a Bachelor's degree in Administration as one of her qualifications when she was appointed in 2009 but the degree was removed from her CV in last year's annual report.
She said she had listed the degree because she had been studying towards it. In two annual reports, Bezuidenhout was said to have a B.Com degree and an MBA, but it was revealed that he only has a Matric. He defended himself by saying he was not the one who said he had those qualifications.
â€¨Another high profile leader who said he never made claims that he had certain qualifications was SABC COO Hlaudi Motsoeneng. The public protector ordered that action be taken against Motsoeneng after she found that he lied about having a Matric certificate, he insists he never lied to anyone. After the case was referred to the Western Cape High Court, Motsoeneng was finally suspended earlier this year.
And South Africa’s ambassador to Japan, Mohau Pheko was exposed as having claimed she received a PhD from the American La Salle University in 2000. However, the University closed in 1996 when it emerged it was selling degrees and other academic qualifications via the internet. Pheko told the SABC the university was promoted as legitimate and that she had registered at it, but it closed before she could be awarded her doctorate.
Even high-ranking police officers are not immune. Former KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman, Vincent Mdunge, was charged with claiming fraudulent Matric when he joined the police force in 1987 and in May this year he was given a 5-year jail sentence for fraud.
In handing down sentence, Durban Regional Court Magistrate Thandeka Fikeni said she tried to be as lenient as she could. But, she said: “There is absolutely nothing respectable about white collar criminals and crime.” Referring to his social standing in society as a high-ranking police official, she went on to say “Society always looks to the police as people who are law abiding.”
The situation down south is so widespread that in March this year the opposition Democratic Alliance Party raised the matter publicly, saying that as many as 640 public sector officials had misrepresented their qualifications, and should be discharged without delay.
Senior party officials exposed this information at the Portfolio Committee of Public Service and Administration, though it declined to reveal the names and positions of the individuals who were found to have lied about their qualifications.
A March 4th statement from Acting Director General Donald Liphoko declared that an increasing number of civil servants were lying about their qualifications.
“Forging qualifications is illegal…we would like to caution people who are embellishing their CVs with fraudulent academic qualifications that the government is committed to rooting out such behaviour…this raises serious questions about the verification systems that are used upon employment of our civil servants.
The South African taxpayer already forks out in excess of R400 Billion every year for a bloated and ineffective public service. Getting rid of the fraudsters should be the first step in cutting this public wage bill and restoring integrity to the civil service”.
Of course padding out and embellishing a CV is nothing new and neither is the forging of qualification documents but what is different today is the ease at which these false documents can be obtained. Formerly a back-street operation where money changed hands secretly, now anyone with access to the internet and a credit card can buy a qualification in whatever field they choose without ever having done a day’s study in the subject.
That’s why verification is key. Otherwise these false papers can then be used to obtain a position for which the applicant has little or no knowledge or experience and, depending on the integrity of the interviewing process, their deception will go undetected in some cases for years, maybe forever.
And of course the seriousness of the crime can be more than merely a bigger salary and more important title, possibly leading to extreme incompetence or negligence with very serious consequences, such as an unqualified physician allowed to treat patients or an airline captain flying a plane.
Think it can’t happen? What about the case of Frank Abagnale, whose life was depicted in the film Catch Me If You Can, with himself being played by Leonardo Dicaprio? He was one of the most famous impostors ever, claiming to have assumed no fewer than eight identities, including an airline pilot, a physician, a Bureau of Prisons’ agent, and a lawyer. He escaped from police custody twice, once from a taxing airliner and once from prison before he was 21 years old.
He was eventually caught and sentenced but served less than five years in prison before putting his skills to work for the federal government as consultant and lecturer for the HYPERLINK "https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_Bureau_of_Investigation" o "Federal Bureau of Investigation" FBI academy and field offices as well as his own financial fraud consultancy company.
That sort of fraud takes some chutzpah as well as considerable intelligence and no doubt Abagnale could have been any or all of those things, had he chosen to study them for real, rather than simply pretending. And that brings me back to Vincent Mdunge who carved a long career in the police force, in spite of never actually having passed his Matric, before his original wrongdoing finally caught up with him.
And considering all those other high-profile names who used their false certificates and false claims to elevate them to higher managerial positions with fat-cat salaries, who have mostly wriggled out of any further consequences, Mdunge seems to have been made a very public scapegoat and example set.
Not that his actions can in any way be condoned, particularly as an upholder of the law but it seems a pity that so many much mightier than him never had to fall quite so far. Momentary public exposure and a metaphorical slap on the wrist seems a picnic compared to 5 years in jail. And by the way, in case you are wondering, yes, I am fully-qualified to judge!
STUART WHITE is the Managing Director of HRMC and they can be reached on 395 1640 or at www.hrmc.co.bw
There is a saying in South Africa which avers that, “the White man has no kin: his kin is money”. The saying rings very true considering what Mayer Amschel Rothschild – he of the planet’s wealthiest family – once said, that, “Permit me to issue and control the money of a nation, and I care not who makes its laws!”
To the white man, the dollar sign looms so large in his optics that it was precisely the reason he appropriated Africa towards the end of the 19th century. The idea was to develop his continent, Europe, at the same rate as he underdeveloped Africa. Yet he was driven as much by economic imperatives as by sheer greed and prejudice.
A “pagan” King violates the Jewish Temple by setting up an idol in the Holy of Holies
Why, General Atiku, has the Judean setting (present-day Israel/Palestine) being the focus of so much geopolitical fervour over the ages when it is so resource-poor and is not even that agriculturally fecund being a virtual desert? Why have all the superpowers of history locked horns over it since days immemorial?
Just a ‘teaser’: we are all complaining of the ‘hot weather’ and ‘heat’ – but think about it, is this a reminder / warning from the Almighty that if we find this weather ‘hot’ can you imagine what the ‘fires of hell’ will be like should we get there?
Let us take this as a reminder and a ‘warning’ that we should change our lifestyles so that we follow in the path of righteousness and that which our Lord has directed. Failing this we will face the ‘fire of hell’ which undoubtedly will be many times worse than what we are facing on this earth.
Because as humans we have been favoured and bestowed with the power of intellect thus we enjoy greatness over other creation, coupled with a greater responsibility. Should that responsibility be misused then only on the Day of Reckoning will he know we will live in joy or in grief forever.
Since the dawn of creation Allah has sent down thousands of messengers, dozens of Divine Books but only ONE universal Message to humanity. That message of Divine Revelation and guidance is clear, unambiguous and eternal:
Allah is One, He is Master and Creator of the universe and of mankind and to Him is due all worship and obedience.
He has sent humanity Divine Revelation and guidance through His Messengers and His Books.
As death is inevitable in this world, equally is our resurrection in the Hereafter where everyone will face the consequences of their belief, unbelief and conduct in this temporal world.
This is the basic message, teaching and belief of every religion and without doubt we will all be called to account for our lives in this world and the manner in which we conducted ourselves, will be rewarded thereafter, the consequences of which may be joy forever for some or grief forever for others.
“It is He [Allah] Who created Death and Life, that He may try which of you is best in deeds and He is Exalted in Might, Oft-Forgiving.” (Qur’an: 67: 2)
In Islam the teachings of the Qur’an and the Last and Final Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) give clear guidance to the believer on how to live a life in this world so as to achieve success in the Hereafter.
‘If any do wish for the transitory things of this life, We readily grant them, such things as We will, to such persons as We will…… those who wish for the things of the Hereafter and strive for them with all due striving, and have faith, they are the ones whose striving is acceptable to Allah’ (Qur’an 17: 18-19)
In this world when a person sets out on a journey towards our Maker (Allah), he finds two paths, one leading to God and the other path to different destinations. A sincere and faithful believer will always try to find the right path and to live by the Divine injunctions, laws and code that his religion lays down. This requires us to live in harmony with the will of the Creator, in harmony with our own selves, and with the needs of the rest of creation. Unfortunately we have a tendency at times to toy with Divine Law and to surrender it to the laws of man and in the process to translate and interpret them into what fits in with our lifestyle of today.
If we are to use the intellect and the freedom of choice bestowed to us by God Almighty and follow His guidance, we will then live consciously in a state of “submission’ to Him, thus we will be virtuous. On the other hand when we ignore our Creators injunctions we work against the natural order, we tend to create discord, injustice and evil – and we become one without guidance. Therefore it is the intellect and the freedom of choice given to us that we are fully responsible for whatever we do.
However, it would be foolish for us to think of ourselves as totally independent and self-sufficient. If a person thinks in this manner, we become proud and. We will be inclined to become ungrateful for the bounties that we enjoy – the air that we breathe and the food we eat to sustain us, the eyes and ears we use to perceive the world around us, the tongue and lips we use to express our needs, wants and our inner most feelings and emotions. And being ungrateful, we will be inclined to forget or to reject the truth of the existence of God Almighty.
Unfortunately, people have varying views with regards to what the most important characteristic of a person is: for some it is the colour of his skin; for others, it is his economic situation – whether he is wealthy or poor; others think it is his , social or political standing, whether he is ruler or ruled; for others it is his social standing as an aristocrat, middle or working class; yet for some is his birth place and the language he speaks or the tribe he belongs to, etc..
‘Do men think that they will be left alone on saying “We believe”, and they will not be tested? We tested those before them, and Allah will certainly those who are true and those who are false’. (Quran 29: 2-3)
In Islam, these have no significance rather they are merely taken as signs of the creative power of God to enable people to recognise one another. The Almighty declares “O Mankind! Indeed we have created you as male and female, and have placed you in nations and tribes that you may have mutual recognition. However, the most honourable of you, in the sight of Allah is the one who is most God-conscious” (Qur’an: 49: 13)
Hence, the most important characteristic of a person is whether he is conscious of his Creator, believes in Him and through that consciousness submits to Him at all times and in all circumstances.
According to the Islamic view man is created by Allah in a pure state, free from sin. He also created us with the capacity or power to do both good and evil. He gave us the freedom to choose between doing good or evil. The good and evil therefore is connected with mankind’s freedom of choice and responsibility for their actions. “Good” may be whatever is pleasing to Allah and therefore beneficial to us. Whereas “Bad/evil” may be whatever incurs the anger of God and is therefore harmful to man.
‘By the soul, and the proportion and order given to it; And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right – truly he that succeeds that purifies it, and he fails that corrupts it….. (Quran 91: 7-10)
Therefore one of mankind’s main tasks is to keep away from and ward off evil. This is why Taqwa, piety and God consciousness is repeatedly mentioned in the Qur’an as the most important quality a person should develop in this regard. This means one must be conscious at all times not to over step the limits set by God. It works as a defence against evil and temptation by keeping a person within the boundaries of piety.