Occasionally, a scandal will explode all over social media and have the whole country onlooking as the mild sense of horror unfolds. A few weeks ago, it was the exposure of fake TikTok Doctor Matthew Lani, from X to TikTok to the seats of a taxi, Matthew Lani was the talk of the town as we all watched as he was uncovered as a fraudulent doctor. Reputable organisations such as the University of Witwatersrand and Cambridge International College released statements explicitly removing themselves from the situation, and in an obvious display of the snowball effect, Dr. Lani’s house of lies came crumbling down.
If you somehow missed the news buzz, Matthew Lani, 24, claimed that he skipped grades 4, 6, and 8, and went on to study Medicine at WITS University and ended up being one of the youngest doctors in the country at the tender age of 22 years old. Lani used his TikTok account to give out “medical advice”, and create frightening videos that would have any patient of his running in the opposite direction.
Flamboyant and enthusiastic are the common genres of Doctor Lani’s TikTok videos, and nothing is more distracting than the constant presence of the stethoscope plunged into his ears. Many users took to X to mention that the obvious display of the stethoscope should have been our first clue into the kind of “doctor” Lani actually is.
Lani has been defending his doctor status as far back as 2022. While he could have slipped under the radar, as I am sure many scam artists have in the country, Lani needed an audience. From prominent news stations, television and radio appearances, blogs, and interviews, Lani went on an influencer’s dream PR tour. Some people on Twitter claimed to recognize the good doctor, even going as far as to say that they had received their COVID-19 vaccinations from him. When he wasn’t masquerading as a medical intern at Helen Joseph Hospital, Lani was selling weight-loss pills, even stating in a since-deleted TikTok video that he was the youngest owner of a pharmaceutical company in the country. Spotting the trend yet?
“Something fishy had to have taken place. I struggled for months to get a position in a hospital across the country, and even after that, there was just so much bureaucratic red tape to go through before I could get hired. There’s no way he just got the position at the hospital.” This is the position of a final-year medical student, who is currently doing her internship. Despite numerous statements coming out against Lani’s claims to fame, and the Gauteng Health Department laying criminal charges against him, dolulu is obviously the solulu for Lani, as he is back on TikTok parading around what now seems to be a University of Cape Town medical degree. While many onlookers pondered upon Lani’s mental capacity to be able to go about business as usual despite the glaring truth, the whole case points to a larger issue of mental health in the black community.
With a 51.52% (2022) youth unemployment rate, the youth grows more and more desperate, and that is beginning to take a serious toll on mental health. And you’re probably thinking, start a business youth, don’t just sit there and wait for handouts, but I ask you, with freshly printed degrees some just want to climb the very same corporate ladders that older generations had the chance to. But with entry-level job advertising posts that require a minimum of 3 years of experience, how do we begin to have a seat at the table when we can barely get into the door? While none of Lani’s actions were justified, especially in a profession that deals with human lives, there is a desperation and hunger to succeed in him that can be mirrored in all the unemployed youth of South Africa.
Ultimately, the Matthew Lani scandal paints a picture of the larger socio-economic challenges our country faces. After the Lani expose, more fraudulent doctors came from the woodwork, and one thing they had in common was their undeniable youth. It then becomes crucial for our society to take on the endemic youth unemployment as the mental health and social issue that it is. It is incumbent upon South Africa’s leaders and institutions to address the pressing issue of youth unemployment and create opportunities for young people to find meaningful and legitimate avenues to succeed, before our bridges are built by fraudulent engineers, and our health is left in the hands of the “Dr.” Matthew Lanis.