Open letter to John Steenhuisen on qualifications
20 April 2021
I write to you in your capacity as DA Leader and having noted your statement over the weekend dismissing questions raised about the legal qualifications of your Chief Whip Natasha Mazzone as a smear campaign.
GOOD is not involved in a smear campaign against any of your members. We have refrained from sharing unverified allegations that factional members of your party have shared with us about each other. We have, however, commented on matters that have been raised in the public space relating to the ethics and integrity of those who hold prominent office in government or in parliament.
Given these roles, these are not matters that can be addressed behind closed doors within the DA only. There is a duty for public clarification.
With regards to Chief Whip of the Official Opposition, Honourable Natasha Mazzone MP, I raised questions after being alerted that Ms Mazzone's profession on her Wikipedia page was edited on 15 April, just as the story about the DA's suspension of its Western Cape leader and MEC Bonginkosi Madikizela for lying about his qualifications was breaking. Ms Mazzone's profession was altered from "Advocate" to "None" and then to "Member of Parliament".
Ms Mazzone's husband has since confirmed editing the page, claiming he was correcting false information introduced by unknown editors.
While Wikipedia pages are easy to edit and manipulate, the reference to Ms Mazzone having legal qualifications of some or other kind is mirrored on other websites.
One of these websites identified by social media users is businesstech.co.za, which in 2018 evidently published a list of political leaders' qualifications in 2018 that described Ms Mazzone's qualifications as "legal".
If you visit the website today, a notice above the article notes that its content has been "updated to clarify the qualifications in DA leadership", and its content reflects Ms Mazzone's qualifications as "Matric (never completed law degree)".
In addition to information on the Internet, News24 has reported party insiders confirming last week that Ms Mazzone had used her apparent legal qualifications to secure a position on the DA's Federal Legal Commission.
These allegations of qualification misrepresentation are as serious as the ones that have ensnared MEC Madikizela. But while Madikizela has been placed on suspension, and publicly acknowledged his fraud, Ms Mazzone has responded by attempting to attack my character for raising the matter on the day her father died. For the record, I was unaware that her father had passed away, and on learning of her bereavement immediately communicated my condolences to her.
Instead of Ms Mazzone simply clarifying the issue, questions about whether she has overstated her qualifications persist.
For the sake of clarity, truth, ethics – and to clean up any misconception of a smear campaign – I therefore publicly address the following questions to you:
(1.) According to Ms Mazzone, and her fellow-MP husband, she did five years of legal articles. According to Ms Mazzone, she was appointed as a City Councillor at the age of 21, and prior to that she was a student at the University of Pretoria. In which years did Ms Mazzone do her five-year legal articles given that articles must be completed on a full-time basis?
(2.) As with Matric qualifications, articles are completed by passing examinations. Did Ms Mazzone complete her articles as claimed?
(3) A 2010 article on techcentral.co.za (see here) quotes the DA website stating Ms Mazzone having a legal background and being in the process of completing an LLB. Is she still working towards this degree?
(4) On what basis were Ms Mazzone's qualifications described by the DA on businesstech.co.za as "legal qualifications"? Who supplied this information to the party, and then to the publication?
(5) On self.gutenberg.org (here) it is reported that, "During her University career Natasha studied an LLB law degree and took Political Science and International Relations as extra subjects." There is no reference to not having completed the studies. Who supplied this information to self.gutenberg.com?
I look forward to your considered response.