False claims and inaccuracies call SA provincial Premier’s CV into question

Comments 5

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.

In May 2014, Thandi Modise was elected chairwoman of South Africa's National Council of Provinces. Her new profile, listed on Parliament's website, has been scrubbed of the false claims and inaccuracies that were exposed in this Africa Check report.

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 master’s 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

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.

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Comment on this report

Comments 5
  1. By Office of the Premier - North West Province

    Press Statement issued by the Office of the Premier, North West Province

    Qualifications were not the only inaccuracies in North West Premier Thandi Modise’s profile, the outline amongst others also stated that the Premier was jailed for 10 years in 1976.

    Premier Modise had for the past two weeks been aware of a well orchestrated and co-ordinated smear campaign aimed at discrediting her and some members of her Executive Council (Exco) ahead of the ruling party’s parliamentary list conference.

    The timing of the slanderous and hypocritical article and the issues they are using confirms that “the Desperados” are behind the disinformation campaign are clutching at straws and after scraping the barrel could not find any mud that could stick.

    The corruption syndicate that involves businessmen, influential politicians, government officials whose reprehensible business and financial interests is threatened by Premier Modise’s onslaught against corruption has shown its determination to at all costs have Premier Modise removed from the provincial list.

    The obstruction and defiance to act against individuals fingered by investigations into fraud and corruption in municipalities and provincial government, the brazen criticism of the Provincial government’s R176 million jobs for youth expanded public works programme in this week’s Mail and Guardian newspaper and the delay to finalise investigation into the alleged irregular purchase of the state vehicle for official use by Premier Modise until the conference this weekend are but part of the intricate plot.

    Though it was clarified to Africa Check’s researcher/journalist Kate Wilkinson that Premier Modise had enrolled for a Master in Economics with the London School of Economics but dropped out soon after she was appointed to chair the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the Portfolio Committee on Defence around 2000 in order to cope with her responsibilities and increased parliamentary oversight workload, the omission of this critical point creates the impression that Premier Modise had not even studied towards this qualification.

    Among other glaring omissions which were not captured in what we concede was a badly written and poorly structured profile which did not follow chronological order, include years of study and institutions at which the Premier studied is that:

    Thandi Modise joined the African National Congress (ANC) in 1976 at the age of 17 and soon thereafter fled to exile to join the liberation struggle. She received military training in Tanzania and Angola where she was one of 30 women out of a total of 500 trainees where she first became political commissar and then commander.

    She returned to South Africa in 1978 as an operative pointing out strategic targets for Unkhonto We Sizwe (MK). She was arrested from 1979 to 1988. At the time of her arrest she was four months pregnant, and later gave birth to a daughter at Johannesburg Hospital during her incarceration at John Vorster Square Police Station. Modise was first woman in South Africa to be jailed for military activities.

    The Spokesperson for the Premier, Lesiba Kgwele has categorically denied making a statement to the effect that the inaccuracies were “little” but confirms that he had accepted that a few areas that needed to be updated were observed when he went through the profile with his principal.

    Little was the spin that the researcher cum journalist chose so that it should appear as if Kgwele had trivialised the inaccuracies in the Premier’s profile.

    The contribution of the Premier towards the liberation struggle during her service to the people’s liberation army, MK and the fact that she had also studied towards LLB with UNISA as uncovered by Africa Check could not have been left out by anyone who had the express intention to exaggerate her achievements and misrepresent her qualifications.

    Premier Thandi Modise holds a B. Comm degree in industrial psychology and business economics which she obtained through UNISA in 1988.She studied for the qualification from her prison cell while she was serving a 10 year sentence for her activities as a freedom fighter.

    She has also attended a special leadership course from the University of United Nations University in Jordan (2000) and holds Certificates in Security Studies from the Naval University in Montreal (1998/1999).

    No deliberate lies or false claims were made. The initial profile could have been put together from various sources and was regarded as authentic over the years by institutions that the Premier served without suspecting its authenticity or bothering to validate its content with her.

    The last of such updates that were done without consulting the Premier was after she was presented with a Special Recognition for her role in the Advancement of Peace and Women in Africa at the 2013 Inaugural African Diaspora Awards.

    The inaccurate profile survived unnoticed by the Premier over the years because in her humility, she does not like lengthy introductions but prefers to be presented simply as Premier of the North West Province Thandi Modise to her audience wherever she is officiating,

    In apologising for any wrong impression/s that might have been created that Premier Modise might have sought to exaggerate her achievements and misrepresent her qualifications, we wish to confirm that the updated profile has since been uploaded on the Office of the Premier and the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) websites.

    Reply Report comment
    • By Africa Check

      Your attempt to suggest that Africa Check is somehow party to a “co-ordinated smear campaign” against the Premier is a dishonest attempt to shift focus away from the errors and false claims that were contained in the Premier’s official CV.

      If you truly believe our report is “slanderous” – a claim you fail to substantiate – we suggest you consult your attorneys. You say our report is “hypocritical”, but fail to explain why.

      You state that Lesiba Kgwele, the Premier’s spokesman denies referring to the errors and false claims in the Premier’s CV as “little inaccuracies”. If so, his statement is false. We quoted him accurately.

      We are glad that you have taken steps to rectify the Premier’s CV and that you concede that there were other “glaring omissions” in the official profile put out by your office, which you admit was “badly written and poorly structured”.

      Interestingly, you have yet to respond to our additional queries about the updated CV. You now claim that the Premier holds “certificates in security studies from the Naval University in Montreal”. We can find no record of a university by that name in Montreal.

      You speculate that the Premier’s official “profile could have been put together from various sources and was regarded as authentic over the years by institutions that the Premier served without suspecting its authenticity or bothering to validate its content with her”.

      Your explanation is hard to believe and, if true, an indictment on the Premier’s office. We assume that disciplinary steps against the officials responsible will be forthcoming?

      You claim that the inaccurate profile “survived unnoticed by the Premier over the years because in her humility, she does not like lengthy introductions but prefers to be presented simply as Premier of the North West Province”.

      Your claim beggars belief. How could the Premier possibly miss it for so long, given that it was published on various government websites and distributed at conferences where she spoke? Surely anyone of the Premier’s stature would take a keen interest in document as personal as their official CV?

      It is extremely worrying that, on your version, neither GCIS or the Premier’s office made any effort to verify the truth of the claims in the official biography. Your response certainly raises far more questions than it answers and we hope that the Premier’s office will properly investigate the matter.

      Reply Report comment

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