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Thabi Leoka, PhD: President Ramaphosa of South Africa axes advisor

Thabi Leoka

Thabi Leoka

President Cyril Ramaphosa of South Africa has dropped a high-profile economist from an advisory panel as questions are raised about her PhD.

Thabi Leoka said that the London School of Economics (LSE) awarded it but Business Day and Daily Maverick journalists said they have not been able to find a record of the degree.

Last week, Ms Leoka denied misrepresenting her qualification. On Monday, she resigned from the boards of two prominent companies.

The mining company Anglo American Platinum Ltd said Ms Leoka stepped down from her position as a non-executive director “in order to attend to her health and the questions she has been facing in relation to her academic qualifications”.

The mobile phone company MTN SA released a similar statement.

On the same day, she was told about “the immediate termination of her membership of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council”, Ramaphosa’s spokesman Vincent Magwenya told the BBC.

Membership of the body “does not require formal vetting”, he said.

The council advises on “economic policies that spur inclusive growth”, according to the presidency’s website.

When Business Day newspaper asked the LSE for a record of Ms Leoka’s doctorate, the university said that it had “checked our files and can find no record of Thabi Leoka being awarded a PhD from LSE”.

In comments to the Daily Maverick, which had asked for evidence of her qualification, Ms Leoka said that she had been busy and not had the time to get hold of her degree certificate.

“I’m not based in [South Africa] full time … I have been at the Miami Bascom Palmer eye hospital as I have glaucoma and have since lost sight in my right eye,” she told the online publication.

“You also don’t have my names as reflected on my degrees,” she added.

Last week, she said she was about to undergo surgery.

When asked on Radio 702, “Have you misrepresented your qualifications?” she responded: “The answer is a straight no.”

She also said that she had qualified under a different name which was why the LSE was not able to find evidence of her PhD when asked by journalists.

Ms Leoka has become a well-known commentator and economist in South Africa, serving on several boards as well as advising the government.

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