Fake qualification
(iStock / Business Insider SA)
  • The law around South Africa's National Qualifications Framework (NQF) has been updated, and now includes offences.
  • One offence: claiming a qualification you don't actually have. And not just directly to get a job: false bragging can also count.
  • That is now a criminal act, which comes with a chance of jail time or a fine – and anyone can report someone who does it.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.


Claiming to hold a tertiary qualification you don't can now come with a jail term of up to five years in South Africa – even if you don't lie on a CV to get a job.

In theory just bragging that you have a doctorate or other qualification on the likes of LinkedIn, or in Twitter bio, can be enough to get you in deep criminal trouble.

And you don't have to be caught out by a potential employer verifying your details; any person can report you to the authorities, with the chance of prosecution.

The National Qualifications Framework Amendment Act came into force this week after a long and sometimes difficult journey through Parliament, for the first time creating offences specific to bogus education institutions – and people who claim qualifications they do not have.

The law now broadly holds it a criminal offence if anyone "falsely or fraudulently claims to be holding a qualification or part-qualification registered on the NQF or awarded by an education institution, skills development provider, QC or obtained from a lawfully recognised foreign institution."

The provision is intentionally broad enough to cover just about any type of misleading claim about just about any type of formal qualification, says Shirley Lloyd, the recently retired head of the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) directorate, and one of the driving forces behind the new law.

If someone reads a false claim of a degree on Twitter or LinkedIn and that person is misled, "then they should be able to raise it," says Lloyd. The South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa) will be obliged to investigate such a claim, and hand it over to prosecutors if it is in breach of the law.

That doesn't mean anyone with a fake degree is liable for prosecution though, Lloyd says, because some of those are victims rather than perpetrators.

"There are some people who might have inadvertently gone to an institution that is itself an illegal institution, what is commonly referred to as a bogus institution, and they have no idea whatsoever that they were achieving a qualification without formal standing," Lloyd tells Business Insider South Africa.

The operators of such bogus institutions also face jail terms of up to five years under the new law for offences including claiming to be registered education institutions either in SA or in foreign jurisdictions.

Lloyd expects cases where there is not a genuine intent to mislead to be weeded out by the normal prosecution process. 

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