ANOTHER day, another South African qualifications scandal. The latest incident — it turns out SA’s new ambassador to Washington, Mninwa Mahlangu, received his distance-learning degree from an unaccredited US "diploma mill" — follows hot on the heels of the revelation that our ambassador to Japan, Mohau Pheko, is still introducing herself as "Dr Pheko" despite having admitted that she was never awarded a doctorate by the now defunct LaSalle University in Louisiana.
There has been a spate of such incidents of late, perhaps because the high-profile outing of former cabinet minister and Business Day columnist Pallo Jordan as a fraud who had never earned the doctorate he claimed, prompted a general media review of senior government officials’ qualifications.
In 2010 the Department of Public Service and Administration ordered all state agencies to undertake a verification exercise. Even so, a number of other fake qualifications have made headlines in recent years, including those of the SABC’s controversial chief operating officer, Hlaudi Motsoeneng, and former chairwoman Ellen Tshabalala.
The latter was eventually forced to step down after considerable political pressure was placed on the government, but therein probably lies the explanation for why it seems so many people are still prepared to take the risk of misrepresenting their qualifications when applying for jobs in the public service or parastatals — the governing party does not seem to take such dishonesty seriously.
Mr Motsoeneng remains in the SABC’s employ, although his lack of formal schooling is just one of many serious allegations hanging over his head. And the presidency was well aware that Ms Pheko’s academic credentials were false before she was deployed to Japan, because the Canadian government flagged them as problematic when she presented herself as SA’s ambassador-designate to Ottawa in 2010.
This troubling attitude is a direct cause of the governance crisis that is crippling service delivery and SA’s state-owned enterprises — the wrong people are being appointed to senior positions for all the wrong reasons.