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A Qualified Statement

Stuart White

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.

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.

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.

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 "" 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

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Is COVID-19 Flogging an Already Dead Economic Horse?

9th September 2020

The Central Bank has by way of its Monetary Policy Statement informed us that the Botswana economy is likely to contract by 8.9 percent over the course of the year 2020.

The IMF paints an even gloomier picture – a shrinkage of the order of 9.6 percent.  That translates to just under $2 billion hived off from the overall economic yield given our average GDP of roughly $18 billion a year. In Pula terms, this is about P23 billion less goods and services produced in the country and you and I have a good guess as to what such a sum can do in terms of job creation and sustainability, boosting tax revenue, succouring both recurrent and development expenditure, and on the whole keeping our teeny-weeny economy in relatively good nick.

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Union of Blue Bloods

9th September 2020

Joseph’s and Judah’s family lines conjoin to produce lineal seed

Just to recap, General Atiku, the Israelites were not headed for uncharted territory. The Promised Land teemed with Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites. These nations were not simply going to cut and run when they saw columns of battle-ready Israelites approach: they were going to fight to the death.

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Security Sector Private Bills: What are they about?

9th September 2020

Parliament has begun debates on three related Private Members Bills on the conditions of service of members of the Security Sector.

The Bills are Prisons (Amendment) Bill, 2019, Police (Amendment) Bill, 2019 and Botswana Defence Force (Amendment) Bill, 2019. The Bills seek to amend the three statutes so that officers are placed on full salaries when on interdictions or suspensions whilst facing disciplinary boards or courts of law.

In terms of the Public Service Act, 2008 which took effect in 2010, civil servants who are indicted are paid full salary and not a portion of their emolument. Section 35(3) of the Act specifically provides that “An employee’s salary shall not be withheld during the period of his or her suspension”.

However, when parliament reformed the public service law to allow civil servants to unionize, among other things, and extended the said protection of their salaries, the process was not completed. When the House conferred the benefit on civil servants, members of the disciplined forces were left out by not accordingly amending the laws regulating their employment.

The Bills stated above seeks to ask Parliament to also include members of the forces on the said benefit. It is unfair not to include soldiers or military officers, police officers and prison waders in the benefit. Paying an officer who is facing either external or internal charges full pay is in line with the notion of ei incumbit probation qui dicit, non qui negat or the presumption of innocence; that the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies.

The officers facing charges, either internal disciplinary or criminal charges before the courts, must be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. Paying them a portion of their salary is penalty and therefore arbitrary. Punishment by way of loss of income or anything should come as a result of a finding on the guilt by a competent court of law, tribunal or disciplinary board.

What was the rationale behind this reform in 2008 when the Public Service Act was adopted? First it was the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise.

The presumption of innocence is the legal principle that one is considered “innocent until proven guilty”. In terms of the constitution and other laws of Botswana, the presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and it is an international human right under the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 11.

Withholding a civil servant’s salary because they are accused of an internal disciplinary offense or a criminal offense in the courts of law, was seen as punishment before a decision by a tribunal, disciplinary board or a court of law actually finds someone culpable. Parliament in its wisdom decided that no one deserves this premature punishment.

Secondly, it was considered that people’s lives got destroyed by withholding of financial benefits during internal or judicial trials. Protection of wages is very important for any worker. Workers commit their salaries, they pay mortgages, car loans, insurances, schools fees for children and other things. When public servants were experiencing salary cuts because of interdictions, they lost their homes, cars and their children’s future.

They plummeted into instant destitution. People lost their livelihoods. Families crumbled. What was disheartening was that in many cases, these workers are ultimately exonerated by the courts or disciplinary tribunals. When they are cleared, the harm suffered is usually irreparable. Even if one is reimbursed all their dues, it is difficult to almost impossible to get one’s life back to normal.

There is a reasoning that members of the security sector should be held to very high standards of discipline and moral compass. This is true. However, other more senior public servants such as judges, permanent secretary to the President and ministers have faced suspensions, interdictions and or criminal charges in the courts but were placed on full salaries.

The yardstick against which security sector officers are held cannot be higher than the aforementioned public officials. It just wouldn’t make sense. They are in charge of the security and operate in a very sensitive area, but cannot in anyway be held to higher standards that prosecutors, magistrates, judges, ministers and even senior officials such as permanent secretaries.

Moreover, jail guards, police officers and soldiers, have unique harsh punishments which deter many of them from committing misdemeanors and serious crimes. So, the argument that if the suspension or interdiction with full pay is introduced it would open floodgates of lawlessness is illogical.

Security Sector members work in very difficult conditions. Sometimes this drives them into depression and other emotional conditions. The truth is that many seldom receive proper and adequate counseling or such related therapies. They see horrifying scenes whilst on duty. Jail guards double as hangmen/women.

Detectives attend to autopsies on cases they are dealing with. Traffic police officers are usually the first at accident scenes. Soldiers fight and kill poachers. In all these cases, their minds are troubled. They are human. These conditions also play a part in their behaviors. They are actually more deserving to be paid full salaries when they’re facing allegations of misconduct.

To withhold up to 50 percent of the police, prison workers and the military officers’ salaries during their interdiction or suspensions from work is punitive, insensitive and prejudicial as we do not do the same for other employees employed by the government.

The rest enjoy their full salaries when they are at home and it is for a good reason as no one should be made to suffer before being found blameworthy. The ruling party seems to have taken a position to negate the Bills and the collective opposition argue in the affirmative. The debate have just began and will continue next week Thursday, a day designated for Private Bills.

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