For many years, former spy chief and prisons boss Arthur Fraser has claimed to hold a degree from one of the most prestigious higher learning institutions in the world: the University of London.
Its alumni (and honorary alumni) include the likes of Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth II, Mahatma Gandhi and Albert Einstein.
Fraser was a close associate of former president Jacob Zuma, who handpicked him to run the State Security Agency (SSA). Having left the service to run his own private intelligence agency, Fraser oversaw what was described as the capture, subversion and politicisation of the SSA.
It was during his time at its helm that a parallel structure reporting directly to Zuma was established. Last year, in his final days as the director-general of correctional services, he illegally granted Zuma (who was in prison for contempt of court) medical parole. The Pretoria High Court declared Fraser’s move “unlawful” and ordered that Zuma return to prison. The matter is under appeal.
Fraser had to be vetted for all his intelligence community positions and other senior government posts, which required the highest security clearance. His academic qualifications were presumably never verified, otherwise it would have been discovered that he never studied at the University of London.
The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act makes it a crime to “falsely or fraudulently claim to be holding a qualification”. The offence carries a fine and/or jail time.
RISING THROUGH THE RANKS – BUT NOT BY DEGREES
Not only did former president Nelson Mandela study law at the University of London through distance and flexible learning while he was imprisoned on Robben Island, but it bestowed an honorary degree on him. Maybe that was what inspired Fraser to enrol for a BA degree in film and video production at that institution. He claimed to have graduated with an honours degree in that course five years later.
Back in South Africa, with his supposed University of London degree in his back pocket, Fraser joined the then National Intelligence Agency (NIA) and was seconded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission as an investigator.
After that, he became the head of the NIA in the Western Cape and the head of the national immigration branch of the department of home affairs. In December 2005, Fraser was appointed deputy director-general of operations of the NIA, which later became the SSA. It was during this time that he initiated and oversaw the principal agent network, a parallel intelligence web that squandered R1 billion of taxpayers’ money, and was implicated in fraud and corruption by a report compiled by a high-level panel.
He resigned amid two investigations into the network, one by an internal SSA team headed by an advocate and the other by the inspector-general of intelligence. Both investigations implicated Fraser and a host of network agents and managers in widespread abuse.
FROM THE SSA TO CORRECTIONAL SERVICES – WITH THE SAME CV
After co-founding Resurgent Risk Managers – a private security risk company that scored lucrative state contracts – with former NIA boss Manala Manzini, Fraser was appointed director-general of the SSA by Zuma in September 2016.
On the SSA’s website, a profile of Fraser read: “In addition to holding a BA (Hons) degree in film and video production from London University and a certificate of attendance from the Institute of Directors, Fraser completed several training courses, including an executive management course in the UK, and has led many delegations on liaison exchange visits.”
Presumably by London University, the profile referred to the University of London (as many others do when referring to it). The information for the director-general’s profile on the SSA website could only have come from two sources: Fraser himself, or the CV he presented on his employment.
When President Cyril Ramaphosa removed Fraser from the sensitive intelligence position and deployed him to the department of correctional services as commissioner in April, his profile was taken from the SSA website and pasted on to that of the department.
HOW FRASER’S FRAUDULENT CLAIMS WERE EXPOSED
During the first half of 2020, I began doing research for a follow-up book to The President’s Keepers, which will be published this year. In trying to build a profile of arguably South Africa’s most controversial civil servant at the time, I spoke to several of Fraser’s former comrades and friends. One of them said: “You must check his qualifications. He said he studied and got a degree when he lived in London. It’s nonsense. He was a bouncer.”
I do not know whether Fraser was indeed a bouncer, but what is clear from the investigation is that he never set foot in the University of London. That institution does not offer a degree course in film and video production.
In the 2000s, I befriended a British journalist who had since then gone into academia. He confirmed there is no record of a foreign student by the name of Arthur Joseph Peter Fraser (his full name) ever having studied at the University of London.
On March 4 2020, I fired off a media inquiry to the national spokesperson of the department of correctional services, Singabakho Nxumalo. I wrote: “I have a media inquiry re commissioner Fraser. On its webpage, the department says that Mr Fraser holds a BA (Hons) degree in film and video production from London University. Can the department and/or Mr Fraser please provide me with proof and verification of this qualification?”
I did not hear anything from Nxumalo and on March 12, I emailed him again.
That same day, he replied: “Apologies for not coming back to you. Let me engage with the national commissioner and revert back to you.”
He never did. However, suddenly, amid my enquiries, Fraser’s academic qualifications on the department’s website changed. His profile now read: “In addition to holding a BA (Hons) degree in film and video production from the London Institute and a certificate of attendance…” If ever there was an admission of guilt, to me this was it.
Overnight, Fraser had not acquired his academic acumen at the University of London, but at the London Institute.
On March 19, I emailed Nxumalo again. I wrote: Since I communicated with you on March 4 2020, Mr Fraser’s profile on the department of correctional services website has changed. He now claims that he obtained a BA (Hons) degree in film and video production from the ‘London Institute’. There is no London Institute.
“I have perused the internet today and I cannot find the London Institute. Maybe Mr Fraser can enlighten me about [it]. If you wish, I can send you a list of all the academic institutions in London that offer courses in film and video production. The London Institute is not among them. I therefore want to ask Mr Fraser to provide me with a verified copy of his BA (Hons) degree in film and video production from the London Institute.
“The British Universities and Colleges Admissions Service doesn’t name a London Institute. Neither does the Study-UK British Council or the UK Council for International Student Affairs. There is a London Film Institute, but it doesn’t offer university degrees and doesn’t even have a website. There are 18 universities in London – and the London Institute is not one of them.”
Nxumalo did not reply.
I emailed Nxumalo once again on May 13 last year, and sent another email two days later. He never responded.
This week, we emailed Fraser’s attorney Eric Mabuza a similar set of questions, asking him to provide evidence of his client’s qualifications and explain the changes to his CV. We asked him whether Fraser had maintained throughout his civil service career that he had obtained a BA (Hons) degree from London University, or whether it was the London Institute.
We also wanted to know whether he had provided verified degree certificates to the various state departments, including the SSA, where he had required the highest security clearance.
“As you know, Mr Fraser is currently involved in litigation with you and the Naspers group. Mr Fraser prefers to and will deal with these matters in court,” was Mabuza’s response.
THE FAKE QUALIFICATIONS CLUB
Other prominent South Africans who have fudged their qualifications are former SABC chief operating officer Hlaudi Motsoeneng (no matric), former arts and culture minister Pallo Jordan (no doctorate), former SA Airways chairperson Dudu Myeni (no bachelor’s degree), former DA Western Cape leader Bonginkosi Madikizela (no BCom degree) and former Prasa chief engineer Daniel Mthimkhulu (lied about being an engineer and the architect of the passenger agency’s “tall trains”).