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Saxen van Coller is the Dube TradePort CEO who was recently suspended by the KwaZulu-Natal government's business initiative, after questions arose about her academic qualifications.

If she is found to have indeed faked her qualifications in order to occupy such an important position, her name will join those of over 600 other public servants who have duped the state over the years to obtain senior, often influential posts. For their calculating methods and dubious operations, these people are our zeroes for the week.

The Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) revealed in Parliament last week that dishonesty about qualifications was becoming a cause for concern. “We would like to caution people who are embellishing their CVs with fraudulent academic qualifications that the government is committed to rooting out such behaviour,” department acting director-general Donald Diphoko said.

“Government reiterates the call by Minister of Higher Education, Blade Nzimande, for the establishment of a national fraud register and the proposed strengthening of key pieces of legislation to address this fraudulent activity.”

The DA says it will demand that the 640 culprits revealed by the DPSA be named so as to prevent them being re-employed in the public service.

Van Coller, whom it has been discovered was actually born Yvette Coetzee, was suspended after “anomalies” were found in her claim that she held a BA, an MBA and a doctorate, according to City Press. “One of her qualifications was allegedly found to have been obtained from a university that had closed before the date on which she claimed to have qualified.”

She also seems to have moved from one influential position to another, using the same qualifications – they include chief executive of Special Olympics SA as well as the international golfing event, the Sunshine Tour, chaired by Johann Rupert, one of South Africa’s leading businessmen.

Van Coller, however, is not the only high profile public figure working for the South African government to have been exposed for dishonesty relating to their qualifications. The country’s ambassador to Japan, Mohau Pheko, was recently forced to admit that she had misrepresented herself on her CV by claiming to have a PhD from La Salle, but the university closed down before she could complete her "studies". Prior to this position, Pheko had been ambassador to Canada.

Ellen Tshabalala, the former chairperson of the board of the SABC, went through a humiliating process last year of trying to prove her innocence when she was accused by Unisa of lying about a BCom degree and a postgraduate diploma in labour relations.

According to Unisa, Tshabalala passed two of her modules, failed another two and did not write exams for a further two. In January 1996, she was allowed to rewrite the two she could not write the previous year. She obtained a mark of 13% for her human resources module and 35% for labour relations. Unisa then wrote to Tshabalala informing her that she had not qualified to redo the course.

Towards the end of last year, ANC stalwart and long-serving MP Pallo Jordan resigned from his position after it was revealed in a media report that he does not hold the doctorate that has been attached to his name for many years, even while serving as a minister.

“The incidents of misrepresentation, which appear to be on the rise, will not be tolerated as they impact negatively on the reputation of the country, its institutions and the credibility of the National Qualifications Framework,” said Diphoko. “Claiming qualifications that one does not have in the pursuit of employment opportunities using fake qualifications is fraudulent, and clearly a criminal offense.”

More than 600 public servants have misrepresented their qualifications to obtain senior, often influential posts, according to the DPSA. Their numbers show no sign of diminishing and they, and all who lie about their qualifications for personal gain, are our zeroes of the week.