Wits University has answered the question of Standard Bank economist Chris Hart’s qualifications.
Hart came under fire on social media platform Twitter after tweeting on Sunday: “More than 25 years after Apartheid ended, the victims are increasing along with a sense of entitlement and hatred towards minorities …”
He later tweeted: “This tweet has caused offense – never intended for which I apologise wholeheartedly. Meant to be read in context of slow growth.”
The bank has since suspended him, just a few months after he began working there, pending a disciplinary process.
Questions emerged on Twitter over Hart’s qualifications after his LinkedIn profile listed only a matric. Former Reserve Bank governor Tito Mboweni was among those asking for clarity.
Chris Hart: if you don’t have an economics degree, you really fooled me for YEARS. Shem man. Not good. Please tell me you graduated in Econ!
— Tito Mboweni (@tito_mboweni) January 4, 2016
Known as an outspoken commentator, Hart’s commentary and analysis of the economy and economic decisions in South Africa is widely quoted in South African news.
A communications officer at the university on Wednesday confirmed to the Mail & Guardian that Hart holds a higher diploma in education (physical science), obtained in 1985, as well as a bachelor of commerce degree (general) obtained in 1997. Both these qualifications came from the institution.
Arguments have erupted on Twitter over whether or not Hart has the qualifications necessary to hold the title of global investment strategist at the wealth and investment portfolio of one of South Africa’s big four banks.
Wits has a record of Hart registering for an MBA, but not completing it. An Independent Online article reported that this was due to the sudden death of his twin brother in 2007.
Meanwhile, BizNews publisher Alec Hogg in an article on Wednesday said that Hart was not a racist and that questions about his qualifications were “outrageous”. While the article stated that Hart holds a BSc from Wits, the university did not immediately respond to a clarification request from the M&G as to whether his higher diploma in education with a physical science specialisation included or is an equivalent to a BSc degree.
Meanwhile, his employer on Tuesday sent out a statement distancing itself from Hart’s tweets, but has refused to comment further on the matter.
“Due to the fact that there is a disciplinary process under way, we are refraining to make further comment on this matter out of respect for the legal process. The outcome of the inquiry will be communicated once the process has run its course,” said a member of the bank’s PR team, Ross Linstrom.
Hart could not be reached on Wednesday for comment.