The University of South Africa (Unisa) has denied that it awarded honorary doctorate degrees to two Malawian celebrities, namely social media influencer Pemphero Mphande and musician Patience Namadingo.
Through a statement issued yesterday, Unisa acting registrar Professor Moloko Sepota said relevant officials will look into the matter and ensure that the individuals “are held to account and also to retract any false claims”.
In the statement, Unisa also said it did not award an honorary doctorate degree to businessperson Mansoor Sharif Karim.
Unisa said it learnt through the social media that the three received honorary doctorates in 2020, 2022 and 2023. However, the university said none of the three was among the candidates considered and approved for the awarding of honorary doctorates.
The statement quotes Sepota as having said: “As a university, we distance ourselves from these false claims and also condemn in the strongest terms the misuse of the Unisa name for fraudulent conduct.”
Unisa said the awarding of honorary doctorates at the institution occurs through a strictly-controlled process with nominations and approvals handled through various governance structures of the university before the final approval by the university’s council.
Further reads the statement: “Once such approval has been secured, the conferment itself is done at an open graduation ceremony of the university, in full view of those attending and presided over by a duly authorised official of the university, usually the chancellor or principal and vice-chancellor.
“Any claim of the awarding of an honorary degree which did not follow this process cannot be an official Unisa process.”
Reacting to the development, Mphande yesterday said it was either Unisa was part of the scam “or they too are being scammed”.
He said the ceremony for the awarding of his doctorate was organised and conducted by individuals who had been doing it for years.
Said Mphande: “Pemphero Mphande and others are not scammers, criminals or otherwise. If anything, they are victims of a scam that Unisa can explain better. I believe in my work and its impact. It is valid and evident to all.”
He has since volunteered to work with Unisa in investigating the matter to expose the truth.
On the contrary, Namadingo took to his Facebook page to defend his doctorate by posting a video of him seemingly receiving the paper.
He challenged those discrediting his stand to release their own video.
Said Namadingo: “We don’t think Doc organised this big event with the professor himself and filled the Unisa Great Hall with South Africans just to fool Malawians.
“And it took years before the university discovered he was in their hall three years ago with 35 other graduates from different countries. Only Doc and other two Malawians matter then?”
Mphande and Namadingo have been earning respect and acknowledgement from the public for taking their time to raise funds for those in need, including patients seeking medical care outside the country.