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Ellen Tshabalala: an unqualified failure

Ellen-tshabalala-sabcI heard a snatch from a radio programme last week that tried to assess what people thought of Ellen Tshabalala’s resignation as chairperson  of the SABC. I was annoyed that the reporter, who was interviewing members of the public, focussed on the importance or otherwise of having proper qualifications.

That misses the point entirely and is misleading. The outcry (and the proposed suspension and disciplinary hearing) had nothing to do with whether or not qualifications are important. The outcry against Ellen Tshabalala occurred because she lied about her qualifications, and continued to do so even at the highest level – parliament itself.

An employer must assess the necessity of a qualification. Does a qualification signify an ability to do the job at hand to the required standard, or does its absence suggest the individual will not be able to cope? That is all that matters. If a qualification is a likely indicator of success in the job, then demand it. If it isn’t, then don’t exclude potential candidates who do not have the qualification you have deemed unnecessary.

However, even when a qualification is not required, an employee commits fraud when claiming a qualification that does not exist. And fraud is not to be dismissed lightly.

In Hoch v Mustek Electronics (Pty) Ltd [1999] ZALC the court accepted the employee’s dismissal even though the claimed qualification was not necessary for the position, and even though the employee had been in the job, and successful at it, for seven years.

It is not acceptable for an employee at any level to lie. Whether or not qualifications matter is an entirely different debate. Let’s not confuse the two.

Ian Webster

From Methodist minister to Customer Relations manager in a computer bureau to HR Manager in a newspaper printing and publishing company. Now focussing on training and developing people, people-management consulting and writing and editing.

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