Sanral chair’s degree drama

2014-08-03 15:00

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The chair of the board of roads agency Sanral resigned abruptly this week after her fellow board members questioned her qualifications – particularly a claim that she holds a master’s degree.

Tembakazi Mnyaka resigned from the board this week, citing personal reasons.

But behind the scenes, sources claim Mnyaka was confronted by board members and asked to step down after she was questioned about discrepancies in her CV regarding her master’s degree in town planning from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN).

Insiders at the road agency said Mnyaka had initially resisted a demand by fellow board members that she resign, but decided to leave this week (coincidentally as City Press started asking questions).

Attempts to reach Mnyaka failed this week. She did not respond to numerous phone calls, SMSes and emails requesting comment on the allegations.

Sanral, which manages and maintains South Africa’s road network, worth an estimated R230?billion, has been embroiled in controversy in Gauteng over its management of the unpopular e-toll system in the province.

This led to speculation that she might have resigned because of public pressure over e-tolls.

Mnyaka, who is also active in the Black Management Forum, had been chair of Sanral for more than three years before her resignation.

City Press understands that her troubles began when the road agency decided to verify the qualifications of board members and executives. Sanral sources said that on her CV, Mnyaka stated she received a master’s degree in town planning from UKZN.

The degree is also listed on Mnyaka’s profile on the Who’s Who of Southern Africa website.

“It was found that she did not have the master’s degree as claimed on her CV, something the board considered a serious breach of governance regulations,” said a Sanral insider, who asked not to be named.

The source said that when pressed, Mnyaka provided academic transcripts showing some of the courses she passed, which the board deemed insufficient proof of qualifications.

She was then asked by fellow board members to resign, but resisted.

This week, as the board pushed harder, Mnyaka was finally forced to step aside and her resignation was accepted by Transport Minister Dipuo Peters.

City Press contacted UKZN to try to verify the claim, but the university refused to divulge individual students’ details.

“The university cannot publicly disclose information of that nature,” said the institution’s executive director of corporate relations, Lesiba Seshoka.

Another source at the university revealed that Mnyaka had registered for the master’s degree – but had not completed the course.

This is the second time in recent weeks that the board chairperson of a state institution is alleged to have misrepresented her qualifications.

City Press reported two weeks ago that SABC board chairperson Ellen Tshabalala had lied about having graduated from Unisa with a BCom and a postgraduate diploma in labour relations.

Sanral refused to comment on Mnyaka’s resignation, saying board members were appointed by the transport department.

Transport department spokesperson Tiyani Rikhotso said the department was looking at ways to help the Sanral board function “optimally”, and this would include enquiring about the reasons for Mnyaka’s resignation from the board.

“As a sole shareholder, we are looking into a number of issues that may require our attention to ensure that the board functions optimally in discharging its fiduciary responsibilities,” Rikhotso said.

Sanral has borne the brunt of unhappiness in Gauteng over the unpopular tolling of the province’s freeways. Some organisations like the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance – which has been fighting e-tolls – even attributed Mnyaka’s resignation to the fallout over the tolling system.

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