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Thabi Leoka quits Anglo American amid PhD furore

Revered South African economist Thabi Leoka resigns from Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) following furore over 'questionable' PhD in economics. 

*This is a developing story. Updated: Tuesday, January 22

In a note to shareholders on Monday, Amplats said the celebrated South African economist has resigned with immediate effect to “attend to her health and the questions she has been facing in relation to her academic qualifications”.

For the past week, Leoka has been facing probing questions over alleged misrepresentation of her qualification as a recipient of a PhD degree in economics in 2008 from the London School of Economics. While the 44-year-old maintains she was awarded the degree, the university has refuted the claim.

Leoka, who is currently in the US undergoing medical treatment for “regenerative glaucoma”, remains on the boards of two companies: MTN SA, and the Small Business Institute. Last week, MTN said it’s “reviewing its own internal processes” related to her appointment five years ago.

Leoka has since denied ever misrepresenting her qualification, as heard in the Radio 702 interview below, and claims the allegation came from someone who has a personal vendetta against her. She said she’ll be taking legal action against the Business Day for tarnishing her name.

Leoka, who is commonly referred to “Dr” in most public addresses, previously held several directorships, in addition to occupying advisory positions to President Cyril Ramaphosa and former finance minister Nhlanhla Nene. 

Leoka serves on the boards of several companies including and the Small Business Institute, as well as the Senegal-based consulting group Act-Afrique. Another report emerged last week stating that Leoka was ‘in the running’ for deputy governor post for Reserve Bank.

*Latest update: January 22

Regrettably, as Leoka’s doctorate qualification remains a mystery, NOWinSA learnt Tuesday morning that Leoka is no longer a member of the Presidential Economic Advisory Council, effective 22 January 2024.

“On Monday, 22 January 2024, the Presidency communicated to Ms Leoka the immediate termination of her membership in the Presidential Economic Advisory Council,” Presidency spokesperson Vincent Magwenya was quoted by the Daily Maverick.

It also emerged late Monday that she has also quit her position on MTN SA board.

Leoka’s unabated exodus from high profile occupations comes days after Netcare issued a statement on Friday regretting not proactively vetting her PhD qualification, as stated on her CV. This after a background check was conducted, and a report by an external specialist integrity assessment firm commissioned by Netcare and received in November 2021 listed Leoka’s highest qualification as an MA and MSc.

“Valuable lessons have been learned, and our verification processes will be more robust and comprehensive going forward,” Charles Vikisi, general counsel and group secretary of Netcare Limited said Friday.

Leoka served as a Netcare independent non-executive director between January 2022 and March 2023.

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