Caught in the PhD qualification storm that saw much sought after Thabi Leoka sail from one board of companies to another, including being a panelist in the 18-team of economic advisors to President Cyril Ramaphosa, it is difficult to ascertain if what mattered most for her to clinch the post was reputed track record of practice in the field or possession of the assumed disputed certificate or both?
Easy to dismiss the question as foolish. To even ask it, may be irritatingly obvious to all that believe competency cannot go without certification. Conventional wisdom holds that both matter equally. But that is not all that there is to what matters to the story, though.
There are those without papers, but convincingly fluent in the spheres they operate in. There are those with papers, but lamentably hopeless to be in the positions they hold as every fresh thing they touch turns sour. Still, there are those with papers that are a joy to behold for their abiding star performance to be the very definition of the fields they are in.
The situation gets bedeviled by voodoo politics that see unteachable nincompoops catapulted to positions they have no vaguest clue for occupying and star performers tortured to nothingness as to make nonsense of education, competency, and certification.
Add to this nonsense corporate chicanery that sees well-meaning talent suffocated into a hotchpotch of toxicity, reducing the working hours of people to an excruciating dog-eat-dog misery. Under this heartless but much vaunted corporate culture, it is as if some are hired with the right of way to throw their weight around to demolish the dreams of others to nightmarish agony.
Where then does Thabi Leoka fit in all this backstabbing atmosphere and what did those that enlisted her to the position see in her? The honour of the authorities that appointed her cannot just begin and end with appointing and terminating her tenure as one of the economic advisors for the eminent office of the land and the President himself.
Leoka’s supposedly dirty hand that received the appointment would not have been made possible without the clean hand of the authority figure that sealed the deal with the handshake confirming her appointment as fit and proper to complement the skills set of the President’s economic advisory team.
If, as an appointee, Leoka is guilty of misrepresentation – the interviewing panel is also not guiltless for the consequent culpability owing to dereliction of duty to perform due diligence.
What adjudicative competence and role did the interviewing panel apply to arrive at Thabi Leoka suitable, fit, and proper for choice for the office of the President?
Could they have been star struck by a reputation of a dashing commentator who was not only a woman but also black and African to meet the vital statistics of political correctness? Or was she a premeditated perfect candidate of instrumental value for the transaction of agendas best known to the appointing authority and to dispense with her banking on the full knowledge of her being PhD-less? Or was this just a case of malicious compliance?
Record has it that Leoka’s appointment for the three-year tenure to the presidential team of economic advisors was officially announced on September 27, 2019, to be effective October 1, 2019. Without making room for justification of misrepresentation on the part of Leoka, she did not appoint herself.
The story cannot just be to solely hold the wayward Leoka’s feet to the fire of accountability to answer for her sins without the appointing team being accessories to the commission of misrepresentation.
The temperature of outrage should equally direct its heat of questions to those delegated with authority to exercise due diligence. Due diligence is what ought to have been done prior to her appointment as very much a vital part of the story.
Without that power of that balance, the courtesy bias tilted in favour of the appointing party, makes for curious reading. It takes two to tango to have arrived at a determination of suitability. Leoka cannot be the only one on the dancefloor to face the music.
There is a case to answer for the decision-making slippage into the President’s office as occasioned by this disputed PhD episode. Was the absence of this PhD the ace card that the appointing authorities had close to its sleeves and poised to play at the right moment to rain on Leoka’s parade?
This is especially so because observance of protocol is an unfailing catechism recited by representatives of the government in all podiums in its interaction with members of the public. What protocols were observed with respect to Leoka?
The same question stands and applies to the rest of the companies that saw Leoka fit to be on their respective boards. Did MTN, Anglo American, Remgro, Netcare and SAA act in concert with the office of the President? Was their collective view of Leoka independently arrived at or were they simply playing to the President’s gallery to gain inside track to the workings of his office to gain self-serving advantage?
Failure by band-wagoning media to establish exact motive for termination of Leoka’s economic advisor position to the President’s office as well as her recusal from various boards of companies makes it complicit in the biased outrage it is parroting.
Having successfully dug enough proof to establish absence of Leoka’s PhD, the media did not go an extra mile to establish the actual motive behind the trigger the parting of ways with the President and other companies having severally served them all on the strength of being an economic commentator. More digging must be done to the trigger behind the Thabi Leoka story.
Focus is more trained on the fatal wounds sustained by a career of a woman and less attention is given to the motives, good or bad, of the hand that pulled the trigger.
Did she cross the unsaid or invisible line that is never crossed, it is not known. With or without the completeness of the story the aspect being accentuated to the reading public is misrepresentation. Misrepresentation is but a part of the story and not the whole truth.
Are there implications for policy choices made, decisions taken, and contracts entered by the government on the strength of advice received from Leoka? Were said choices, decisions and contracts abided with by direction of Leoka independent of other economic advisers to the President or with them? Written by Corporate Strategist, Writer & Freelance Journalist, Oupa Ngwenya.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the content belong to the author and not Y, its affiliates, or employees.
Written by: Lindiwe Mabena