Africa Check (Johannesburg)

24 January 2014

South Africa: False Claims and Inaccuracies Call SA Provincial Premier's CV Into Question

An official curriculum vitae for Thandi Modise, the controversial Premier of South Africa's North West province, contains a number of false claims and glaring factual inaccuracies, Africa Check has discovered.

Within hours of this report being published, government officials hurriedly "corrected" versions of North West Premier Thandi Modise's CV on national and provincial government websites. We have updated our report to reflect this.

An official government "profile" of North West Premier Thandi Modise has claimed that she is "currently" studying towards a masters degree in economics, that she attended a "special leadership course" at the "University of Jordan" in the United States and that she has a "certificate of a trainer in military training" and a "certificate in gender studies".

None of the claims are true.

The profile appeared on the official South African government website, the website of the government communication service and the North West provincial government. Within hours of the publication of our report, all three profiles were hurriedly "corrected". You can view a saved copy of the original North West government profile here.

There is evidence that the profile has been circulating unchecked for a number of years.

An early PDF version of the profile, which is archived on the website of South Africa's Institute for Security Studies, refers to Modise as the speaker of the North West provincial legislature, a position she held before being appointed Premier in November 2010. On closer scrutiny, the document's embedded file data reveals it may have been created as early as August 2006.

'Little inaccuracies'

Contacted by Africa Check this week, Modise's spokesman, Lesiba Kgwele, admitted the inaccuracies. But, he claimed, the Premier was completely unaware of the contents of her official biography which, he said, had been drawn up by her communications team.

He attempted to downplay what he described as "little inaccuracies".

Kgwele said Modise had a B.Comm degree in industrial psychology and economics, which she obtained from the University of South Africa (Unisa) in 1989.

A university official - who asked not to be named - told Africa Check that Unisa's records indicate Modise obtained a B.Comm degree in industrial psychology and "business economics" - an "easier" subject than economics - in 1988. According to the official, she also registered for an LLB degree in 2007 but was absent from the exam and did not complete her studies.

Kgwele admitted that Modise was not "currently" studying towards a masters degree in economics, as stated in her official profile. He claimed she abandoned her masters studies fifteen years ago in "1998 or 1999" when she "took on extra responsibilities in parliament".

False claims

He admitted that Modise did not hold a "certificate of a trainer in military training", as claimed in the profile.

Nor does she hold a "certificate in gender studies". Kgwele speculated the entry may have been mistakenly included in her profile because of her work as a "gender activist".

Kgwele admitted that Modise did not attend a "special leadership course" at the "University of Jordan in United States of America". (No such university appears to exist)

Kgwele claimed Modise had in fact attended a leadership course at the United Nations University (UNU) in Jordan in 2000. But Brendan Barrett, a spokesman for the University, was unable to confirm this.

According to Barrett, a women's leadership course was held at the UNU's training institute in Jordan in June 2000. A second course on "leadership for post-conflict peace building" was held there in November 2000. But, he added: "Since the institute is no longer in operation, we do not have a record of participants."

Late on Thursday, Kgwele sent Africa Check an amended version of Modise's official profile which now claims that she obtained certificates in security studies from the Naval University in Montreal in 1998/99. We have been unable to find any record of such a university in Montreal, Canada.

Conclusion - Modise's CV raises serious questions

Four of the five "academic qualifications" listed in Modise's official profile prior to the publication of our report don't exist. Despite this, the document was published on official South African government websites and appears to have been circulating for some time.

The Premier's spokesman says she was unaware of the "little inaccuracies" in the profile and blamed her communications team for the "errors". But it seems unlikely that such a personal document could have been drafted and published without Modise's involvement and consent.

Key questions remain. Where did the Premier's office obtain the list of qualifications it included in the profile, if not from Modise? Why did government fail to verify the accuracy of the profile before publishing it online and distributing it? And how much did the Premier really know?

Edited by Julian Rademeyer

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