Rhodes University academic appointed in President's anti-corruption watch group

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Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies TV Lecturer and PhD candidate
Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki, Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies TV Lecturer and PhD candidate

Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies TV Lecturer and PhD candidate Thandeka Gqubule-Mbeki has been appointed to President Cyril Ramaphosa's National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council.

President Ramaphosa announced the news this week and said the Council will advise the President on matters related to fighting corruption, in line with the National Anti-Corruption Strategy 2020-2030. Among other focus areas, the Council will advise the President on the effective implementation of the anti-corruption strategy by government and civil society, including the private sector. The Council will also provide advisory input on matters related to the government's comprehensive response to the recommendations of the Judicial Commission of Inquiry into Allegations of State Capture.

The Office of the President said the Council had been established to deepen the country's efforts to rid society and the administration of corruption, improve investor confidence and secure higher levels of public trust. "The new body will advise the government on the critical preventative measures, institutional capabilities and resources required to proactively curb a recurrence of state capture and prevent fraud and corruption in South Africa. The appointment of the Council is another fulfilment of commitments made by President Ramaphosa in the February 2021 State of the Nation Address," the Office said.

Thandeka-Mbeki hails from Alice and grew up as a shy bookworm who loved art and languages. She spent most of her career in broadcasting, in love with the lofty ideals of public broadcasting and committed to editorial independence - free of commercial and political pressures. "I am an activist for universal access to the airwaves, for I believe we as a society need to fashion a public sphere that enables participatory democracy," she explained.

She cut her teeth in TV broadcasting at Public Service Broadcasting in New York. Her colourful career includes being the Editor-in-Chief of Black Enterprise, Associate Editor of the Financial Mail, Economics Editor of the SABC and Acting Head of TV News. She has worked for the Weekly Mail and is no stranger to Rhodes University, as she was a lecturer in the 1990s.

The newly-elected corruption-watcher is a member of the Active Citizens Movement - a politically non-partisan organisation led by Mahatma Gandhi's granddaughter Ella Gandhi and entrepreneur Nokuthula Luthuli. "We aim to build an anti-corruption and anti-poverty movement in our country," said Gqubule-Mbeki. In her appointment in the President's corruption watch group, Gqubule-Mbeki said: "I aim to serve the nation. While I feel honoured, I know that all social change is a collective society-wide endeavour - to which we can all lend a hand whether we have formal positions or not."

She said her studies in the governance of public entities would come in handy. She holds a Public Service Leader's Development Programme from Wits Business School. This is an honours level, yearlong qualification (NQF8) aimed at assisting leaders of Public Entities in governing public institutions in an ethical manner. She also holds a master's degree in Journalism from Columbia University in New York; and a Master's Degree (MPhil) in International Business. "I went through the rigours of the Oxford Executive Leadership Program of Saïd Business School, Oxford University, and I am committed to learning how to teach better and be a better educationist," she added.  

The 56-year-old corruption-watcher is currently a PhD student at the Rhodes University School of Journalism and Media Studies under the supervision of the Head of School, Professor Anthea Garman. She is a proud mother of two adult daughters.

Another member of the Council, who is a Rhodes University alumnus, Sekoetlane Phamodi, said he was trepidatious about the significant and challenging work ahead of them but drew confidence from the support of his community and colleagues in civil society. "Through this appointment, the President has expressed his confidence in all of our capacity to steward the implementation of the whole of society's response to mitigating corruption risk and rebuilding a social compact based on integrity, accountability and active civic participation as is described in the National Anti-Corruption Strategy. This is vital work and a responsibility I hope to discharge with wisdom, integrity, and humility. I am ready to serve," he proudly said.

The National Anti-Corruption Advisory Council members will serve a three-year term effective from 01 September 2022. The rest are Chairperson: Professor Firoz Cachalia, Deputy Chairperson: Inkosikazi Nomandla Dorothy Mhlauli, Kavisha Pillay, David Harris Lewis, Nkosana Dolopi, Barbara Schreiner, Advocate Nokuzula Gloria Khumalo.

The Presidency said that in executing its advisory role, the Council would interface with several coordinating Ministers who play significant executive oversight roles on key legislative and policy mandate areas related to combating corruption. The Council will also engage with sectoral stakeholders, such as organised business and labour, academia, and community - and faith-based organisations, to further develop the country's anti-corruption agenda and evaluate progress in implementing the anti-corruption strategy.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Sizwe Mabizela congratulated Gqubule-Mbeki and Phamodi on their appointment and wished them well. "I am delighted to see that our alumni and students place their knowledge, special skills and talents at the service of our society and humanity as we rebuild devastated lives, destroyed economies, and rekindle shattered dreams and hopes. Rhodes University is where leaders learn, and we always capacitate our students to be a reason people feel positive and confident about themselves, their lives and their future. We teach them always to be a beacon of hope and a source of inspiration for a better society and a better world."