I’m no degree cheat, says set-top box boss

2015-04-26 17:00

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The woman in charge of South Africa’s multibillion-rand digital TV set-top box roll-out is embroiled in a qualifications-fraud row after a former employee approached Parliament querying the authenticity of her degree.

Now Pumla Radebe, chairperson of the Universal Service and Access Agency of SA (Usaasa), is suing Mmatlou Morudu, the agency’s former executive manager of programmes, for R750?000 in damages for injuring her reputation.

Morudu wrote to Parliament asking why Radebe’s BA degree did not show up in a record search at her alma mater, Fort Hare.

But in a letter to Morudu, which City Press has seen, attorneys acting for Radebe accuse him of making false, malicious and unsubstantiated statements that suggest Radebe misled Usaasa when she was appointed chairperson of the agency, which is responsible for the roll-out of the multibillion-rand digital TV decoder tender.

Radebe’s appointment as chairperson followed a long career as a government social worker and directorships at the Thokoza, Katlehong and Eastern Gauteng services councils. She has also served on the board of Joburg City Parks and waste collection utility Pikitup, and is a nonexecutive director of the Institute of Directors in Southern Africa.

Her lawyers said the allegations were discussed in a formal sitting of Parliament, which was broadcast on parliamentary television.

“The defamatory statements regarding our client were therefore widely distributed to members of Parliament and to people watching Parliament TV,” they wrote.

But Morudu said his enquiries were made in confidence to the proper oversight authority based on a reasonable suspicion stemming from the absence of records at Fort Hare. He obtained Radebe’s ID number from a corporate plan of the Independent Development Trust, a department of public works agency she previously chaired.

He claimed a search for the ID number at Fort Hare showed that no records for her existed. “[That] required further investigation or inquiry by the parliamentary portfolio committee,” he said.

But Radebe’s lawyer Harold Jacobs said the chairperson of the parliamentary committee had asked for copies of her qualifications. These were duly furnished.

City Press requested a manual search for Radebe’s records at Fort Hare. It revealed her file and the graduation programme for April 23 1977, on which her name appears.

The Gordon Institute of Business Science, where Radebe attended a board leadership programme, also confirmed her credentials.

City Press was unable to verify Radebe’s diploma in municipal management from the then Rand Afrikaans University. The Regenesys Business School, from which Radebe lists a certificate in policy development and management, did not respond to queries.

However, a certificate in project management from the then Pretoria Technikon, now the Tshwane University of Technology (TUT) was found to be problematic. When a copy of Radebe’s certificate for the short course was sent to the TUT registrar’s office, a senior administrator spotted a number of discrepancies, including that:

.?The certificate did not have an approved logo of the institution and the duration of the course was not clearly indicated – as required of all formally approved short courses;

.?The certificate stated that the department of public relations and business communications in the faculty of information sciences had presented the course. But the faculty of management sciences was, and remains, the only presenter of the short course;

.?Radebe did not show up in the institution’s project management records;

.?The date of the short course indicated on the certificate “completely” differed from that offered by the faculty of management; and

.?The certificate misspelt the name of the institution, twice referring to it as “Technicon Pretoria”.

At the time of going to print, the administrator was still trying to track down manual records for Radebe.

Radebe promised to provide a comment to City Press, but none was forthcoming.

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