Yes, Van Rooyen is the most (academically) qualified of Zuma’s finance ministers

Comments 3

South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma has defended his controversial appointment of Des van Rooyen as finance minister in December 2015 by saying he is “more qualified” than his predecessors. Is that true?

When President Jacob Zuma appointed the relatively unknown Des van Rooyen as finance minister in December the ensuing outrage caused him to change his mind four days later.

At a recent event in Pretoria Zuma reportedly defended his choice of Van Rooyen by saying: “He’s a trained finance and economic comrade, more qualified than any minister I have ever appointed there, in the finance issue.”

Several Africa Check readers contacted us to confirm if this was true, with IRS Investigations tweeting: “Before mocking President Zuma on his statement that Van Rooyen was most qualified for the job, why not fact check it first? Ask @AfricaCheck.”

Did Zuma speak of academic qualifications?

Enquiring whether Zuma was referring to academic qualifications, experience, or both, the president’s spokesman Bongani Majola said: “What do you think it means? I cannot tell you what the qualifications are, you have to research that on your own.”

Without clarification, we checked academic qualifications, although some argue that experience matters more or that the most important factor is to have the trust of the citizenry – all subjective measurements.

Several certificates and two master’s degrees

Van Rooyen has several certificates in governance and finance according to the South African government website. He was also awarded a master’s degree in management by the University of the Witwatersrand in 2010. This the university’s senior communications officer, Kemantha Govender, confirmed to Africa Check.

Van Rooyen’s most notable qualification is a master’s degree in finance, specialising in economic policy, from the University of London. The university’s communications officer, Laura Pritsch told Africa Check that Van Rooyen was awarded the degree on 31 December 2013 through their distance learning programme.

The university website states that the master’s programme is aimed at providing an understanding of financial markets and banks and is designed for students who work in economic policy in government, public institutions, international institutions and central banks.

Gordhan and Nene’s qualifications

What qualifications do Van Rooyen’s predecessors hold? Since taking office in 2009, Zuma appointed two other men to the position of finance minister.

South Africa’s current finance minister Pravin Gordhan was also finance minister from 2009 to 2014.

Gordhan’s highest academic qualification, according to his government profile, is a bachelor of science degree in pharmacy, which he received from the then University of Durban in 1973. We have been unable to confirm this with the university, however, but will keep trying. (UPDATE: In July 2019 the University of KwaZulu-Natal confirmed that Gordhan “studied and successfully completed the requirements for the degree Bachelor of Pharmacy in 1973”. The South African Pharmacy Council has also confirmed that he is a “qualified non-practicing pharmacist” and was registered with the council from January 1975 until May 1997.)

Gordhan has been awarded three honorary doctorates: in commerce, by the University of South Africa, in law, by the University of Cape Town, both in 2007, as well as a DTech degree by the Central University of Technology in 2009.

The man whom Van Rooyen briefly replaced in December, Nhlanhla Nene, holds several certificates and diplomas in economics according to his government profile. His highest qualification, a bachelor of commerce honours in economics from the University of Western Cape, was awarded in September 2009. Africa Check verified this with the university’s communications and media liaison manager Luthando Tyhalibongo.

Conclusion: Van Rooyen is the most academically qualified finance minister Zuma has appointed

With a master’s of science in finance, specialising in economic policy, Des van Rooyen carries the highest academic qualification of the finance ministers Zuma has appointed during his term.

The highest academic qualification Pravin Gordhan, minister of finance from 2009 to 2014, holds is said to be a bachelor of science in pharmacy, while Nhlanhla Nene, who was in the position from 2014 to 2015, has a bachelor of commerce honours in economics.

Many readers enquired about Van Rooyen's undergraduate qualifications. His spokesman, Sheila Baloyi, confirmed to Africa Check that he does not have any, nor matric. How was he then accepted for a master's degree? The University of the Witwatersrand, where Van Rooyen completed his first master's degree, state as part of their requirements that “where an applicant does not have the classic academic track record, the assessors will look at the experience and the test results”. Registrar of the university, Carol Crosley, declined to comment on Van Rooyen specifically but told Africa Check that “the university recognises a variety of learning paths as a basis of admission to its degrees including qualifications from other institutions of education and prior learning”. Still, this does not change the fact that Van Rooyen is the most academically qualified of Zuma's finance ministers. Director of foreign qualifications evaluation and advisory services  at  the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA), Nadina Coetzee, confirmed to Africa Check that the University of London is a recognised institution. “In principle SAQA would recognise its qualifications and a master's degree would normally be recognised at National Qualifications Framework (NQF) level 9,” she added. Van Rooyen’s master of management degree from Wits is also recognised at NQF level 9, Kholofelo Mogale, programme coordinator at the Wits School of Governance, told Africa Check. – 16/03/2016  

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Comment on this report

Comments 3
  1. By Frank Thompson

    A bit of Googling turns up the fact that the University of KZN claims Pravin Gordhan as an alumni. See page 28 of The university also has a Pravin Gordhan Pharmacy Trust Fund. See

    Given that the University was formed in 2004 by the merger of the Universities of Durban-Westville and Natal, it would be a bit strange that it would provide such recognition someone who hadn’t graduated.

    Reply Report comment
  2. By Lebogang

    @FrankThompson, none of your links go to any page. Please provide links that actually work? AfricaCheck investigates by actually communicating with the institutions involved in the fact being investigated. They obviously contacted the institutions where Pravin claims to have acquired his qualification. Why is it easier to prove other qualifications and not others? Haha. Defending Pravin for not being qualified is pure hypocrisy. Let’s wait, maybe some day the qualification being called into question might surface

    Reply Report comment

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