Top justice man’s dodgy credentials?

2011-09-30 00:00

A SENIOR justice department official, once in charge of presidential pardons and other key projects, has been suspended pending an inquiry into whether his law degree credentials are genuine.

Neville Gawula, a director in the office of the chief litigation officer in the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development, was suspended in July after his law qualifications allegedly could not be verified, Media24 Investigations has established.

But Gawula, through his lawyer, this week claimed that his suspension is a political ploy to remove him from his post.

He claimed he obtained his B.Juris. in 1995 and his Ll.B. in 1997 from Vista University in Port Elizabeth.

The justice department would not disclose what charges the 42-year-old Gawula is facing and would only confirm that disciplinary proceedings are under way. It is understood that questions were raised over his qualifications when the department tried to verify his credentials following his appointment as a director.

Said the department’s spokesperson, Tlali Tlali, “All we are able to indicate at this stage is that he was suspended in July this year by the director-general and not fired.

“His disciplinary hearing is under way. We wouldn’t want to act in any way prejudicial to his rights or conduct ourselves in a manner that could call into question the integrity of the disciplinary proceedings that involve him.”

His lawyer, Vuyo Notshe, said the department does not have a case as Gawula has evidence that he did study at Vista University and that records of his qualifications were transferred to to Unisa during the merger of the universities.

“If we have to even call the people who lectured him during those years we will do so. The department is relying on documents which come from SAQA [the South African Qualifications Authority], which claims that it can’t find Mr Gawula’s qualifications as an attorney, which is not correct…,” said Notshe. He added that Gawula had publicly represented Vista.

He questioned why the department had only recently discovered the allegedly fake credentials when Gawula had been employed as a senior official for a number of years.

“Every time a person is promoted or applies for a new post in government, it verifies their credentials, so what happened in the previous years?” asked Notshe

Gawula has worked for the department for about six years and in 2006 was appointed head of the secretariat of the steering committee, which was in charge of drafting the Legal Services Charter and to advise the then justice minister, Brigitte Mabandla.

investigations@media24.com

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