Cape Town – The DA has been cautioned to avoid perceptions that it treats its white and black leaders differently, following the latest qualifications scandal, this time involving mayco member for safety and security JP Smith.
The ANC is expected to lodge criminal charges against Smith, in connection with alleged fraudulent claims made in his CV, at the Cape Town Central Police Station today.
Last week, reports emerged of the alleged misrepresentation of an honours degree from Stellenbosch University, and that Smith allegedly campaigned using false qualifications at the party’s 2017 provincial congress, where he was re-elected as DA provincial deputy chairperson.
It is also alleged that a biography, sent by his personal assistant to the Music Exchange conference organisers, where he was a guest speaker in 2019, detailed he had the same degree.
In a statement, Smith said that, at some point, a “clerical error” was made in editing a bio – by omitting the term “incomplete” in relation to an incomplete postgraduate honours qualification in English.
“This error must have persisted for a while, some years ago, until a subsequent edit update corrected it.
“I have not been involved in the periodic updates and editing of bios and was not aware of the unfortunate error until alerted to it now, however, it is clear that there was no intention to deceive anyone on the issue, nor to benefit in any way from this, and the correct information is prominently and publicly available. Not once have I been invited to attend an event or represent the City of Cape Town, on the basis of having completed an honours degree. It is irrelevant and superfluous to the work at hand,” he said.
Ryan Smith, chief of staff to party leader John Steenhuisen, on Sunday said that the qualification was “merely represented without Smith’s knowledge”.
“All members of the party are treated equally, regardless of race. In Mr Madikizela’s case, he deliberately lied about his qualification, whereas Alderman Smith’s were merely misrepresented without his knowledge. One is an offence while the other is not,” he said.
Political Analyst Keith Gottschalk said that it was important to know the exact facts of the case before criticising the “sometimes controversial” JP Smith.
“A new South African law makes it now a crime to claim qualifications you don't have, even if you do not need them for the job you applied for,” Gottschalk said.
“All big political parties have public relations professionals, who should help their politicians finalise wording on their CVs. They should also ask their leaders to produce copies of qualifications they claim to have.
“The DA does need to be alert, to avoid perceptions that it treats its white and black leaders differently because there has been such a high turnover among their black leaders over the past decade,” said Gottschalk.
The ANC said claims made about Smith’s educational qualifications, when he ran against Antoinette Steyn, in 2017, as DA provincial chairperson, falsely stated he had completed an honours degree, and he was re-elected to this position.
“It’s inconceivable that Smith was not aware of this misrepresentation. This false claim was put before delegates and surely must have bolstered his chances against Steyn. This is disgusting, coming from a politician who positions himself as Mr Clean. We will lay criminal charges against him today and expect the police to investigate the matter expeditiously,” said leader of the ANC in the legislature Cameron Dugmore.
Good Party secretary Brett Herron said that the DA’s qualifications scandals all emanate from within the party, as members feud over positions.
“Allies are now foes and spilling dirt on each other. In the meantime, the DA is being exposed for its hypocrisy, where each case is treated differently depending on who you are. Bonginkosi Madikizela was suspended, investigated, and resigned. Party chief whip Natasha Mazzone was not investigated but just exonerated, mayco member for water and waste Xanthea Limberg is apparently under investigation, but still in her position,” said Herron.
Madikizela would not comment on the matter and said that he was no longer a member of the provincial government.