The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) confirmed yesterday that Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan graduated a Bachelor of Pharmacy degree in 1973.
Gordhan began his education at the then University College for Indians on Salisbury Island, established in 1960, in Durban Bay. In 1971, the college was granted university status.
“In addition, he received an honorary doctorate in 2003 and the Convocation Award in 2013 from UKZN,” Ashton Bodrick, UKZN executive director corporate relations, said yesterday in response to The Citizen’s query.
Gordhan has also received a DTech Business Administration degree (honoris causa) from the Central University of Technology, Free State.
While a pharmacy degree may not have been the best training for a freedom fighter in the 1970s apartheid era, Gordhan’s political history is so far undisputed.
According to sahistory.org.za, he became politically active at age 22.
“In 1974, he completed his pharmacy internship at King Edward VIII Hospital in Durban,” the website stated.
He worked there until 1981, when the then Natal Provincial Administration dismissed him for political activities while in detention.
Gordhan was released from jail in 1982 and received banning orders effective until June 1983.
Now 70, Gordhan was arrested as recently as 1990 for his part in Operation Vul’indlela, for which he received indemnity in 1991.
He served as South African Revenue Service (Sars) deputy commissioner from March 1998 and as commissioner from November 1999.
In part one of her report on Gordhan and former Sars acting commissioner Ivan Pillay, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane noted that Gordhan’s decision to appoint Pillay based “solely on Mr Pillay’s previous experience and acquired skill is vague considering the level of the position”.
This was despite acknowledging the submissions made to her that there was no job description for the position he was promoted to from chief officer: strategy, enablement and enforcement.
Andrew Levy Employment director Andrew Levy said that wherever there was a recognised qualification and a person had to be licensed by a professional or statutory body, there was “no question” a formal qualification was “an absolute barrier”.
“If an employer was faced by two candidates with equal work experience, but one had a professional degree, subject to interview and personality, the employer would probably go with the experience and the qualification.
“Unless you have tremendous, tremendous experience in a very small niche area and it would take a long time to train someone from scratch, the employer would tend at the point of hiring to favour the person with some qualification.”
Pillay may not have the academic qualifications demanded by Mkhwebane, which is not specified in her report, but he appears to have spent an inordinate amount of time in and around the intelligence services.
Also part of Operation Vul’indlela, Pillay “played an important role in sending people and weapons into SA”, according to the O’Malley archive hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation.
According to the Merebank Justice Network Fundraising Committee (MJN), Pillay was a delegate via the Natal Indian Congress at the Convention for a Democratic SA, as was Gordhan.
Pillay was also the secretariat to the National Peacekeeping Force of the Transitional Executive Council in the run-up to the 1994 elections.
From 1994 to 1999, “he played a role in the amalgamation of the intelligence service which led to the National Intelligence Agency and South African Security Service”, according to the MJN.
From there he moved to Sars, a year after Gordhan arrived.