Mr Pallo Jordan, Do the right thing

About two weeks ago a leading Sunday Times article alleging that ANC stalwart and former minister of Arts and Culture, Mr. Pallo Jordan, does not posses a PhD was met with mixed reactions.

 Furthermore, the reporter could find no evidence that he graduated from the universities indicated on his official CV on various government websites.

 Given his seniority within the African National Congress, in parliament and the African diaspora – such an indictment brings into question not only his personal integrity, but that of the ruling ANC-government  (for, as his employer, failing to verify his qualifications) and the country at large.

At this point I must state that I hold Mr. Jordan in high regard, and appreciate his contribution to public discourse, particularly in post apartheid South Africa. Mr. Jordan has always been a voice of reason, a public intellectual and politician who’s opinion, more often that not, shaped the discourse of the day. Quite frankly, if the allegation is indeed true that Mr. Jordan does not posses formal post schooling education, then he should be celebrated, because his intellectual contributions are on par with, and more often than not, more critical and comprehensive than those who posses formal post schooling qualifications.

It is precisely this that boggles my mind. Why would Mr. Jordan lie about his academic qualifications? Was there pressure from his political peers that necessitated him pretending to have graduated with a PhD degree from the London School of Economics? More importantly, Why has this only come to the fore now? Who ‘leaked’ the story? Were there factional politics involved? For now, until such a time that Mr. Jordan comes clean, we can only speculate. I will limit this piece to note the immediate reactions by political figures and “young lions”. Following that, I will ponder why such sentiments are not helpful in a country where basic education remains in a critical state, and the amount of black students pursuing post-graduate degrees remains critically low.

 Social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook were abuzz with friends and foes alike sharing their views on the matter. As was expected, his comrades maintained that this expose is a media stint to discredit the ANC and its leadership. Others lambasted peoples shock, stating that such phenomenon has become to norm in post apartheid South Africa, and is to be expected from “ANC cronies”. The one side is in complete denial of how such allegations could negatively impact public perception of Mr. Jordan, the ruling ANC-government, and South Africa at large. This issue has sadly given those who frequent online news pages ammunition to spew racial hatred and contempt towards the black majority government. Neither is constructive in this regard.

Mr. Pallo Jordan’s expose follows a wave of such allegations –which are yet to be disproved. A few weeks ago it was reported that SABC (then acting, now confirmed) COO, Mr. Hlaudi Motsoaneng lied about having a grade 12 (matric) certificate. Today the City Press reported SANRAL’s chairperson, Ms. Tembakazi Mnyaka resigned from her post after probes into the validity of her Masters degree in Town planning from UKZN emerged.

“My grootse kommer is die verkynsel van lieg oor kwalifikasies. Dis bedrog. Ons moet dit met wortel en tak uitrooi, anders kom die geloofwaardigheid van ons onderwysstelsel in gedrang…onthou, ons moet ook n’ goeie internasionale beeld he” says Dr. Blade Nzimande referring to the appointment of SABC boss in an interview with reporter, Hanlie Retief, published in Rapport on 3 August 2014.

 It is precisely the latter part of minister Nzimande’s quotation that I feel have not been addressed. But, it is not only politicians who’s academic qualifications were exposed as fictitious. Former vice chancellor of TUT, [professor?] Johnny Molefe, and chair of WSU’s council, [professor?] Somadoda Fikeni came under public scrutiny after the validity of their PhD’s were questioned. The formers’ PhD was declared invalid by the South Africa Qualifications Authority, and even though Fikeni was reinstated to his post– after the university apparently received confirmation from a university in the USA – a suspicious cloud still hovers over him.

 In November 2013 an article published by Fin24 reported that the phenomenon whereby applicants produce forged and bogus degree certificates when applying for jobs has become a major problem in the public and private sectors alike. The article quotes Danie Strydom, CEO of the qualifications verifications company QVS, suggesting that as many as 13% of the degrees they verify are forgeries. Dr. Naledi Pandor, minister of Science and Technology in her 2014 budget vote speech cautions: South Africa only produces just over 1800 PhD degrees per annum, which is not nearly close to the international average. Our desire to increase the mount of PhD’s in the country should not create fertile economic conditions for those selling fake degree certificates to thrive.

Instead, we should create conducive environments for students to achieve academically, following which peruse postgraduate degrees, and be absorbed into academia. This can only be done if government provides more funding to universities; universities should increase access particularly to previously disadvantaged youth and ensure that students actually graduate; and lastly, universities should actively transforms racist university cultures and become more representative of national demographics.

Back to Mr. Pallo Jordan. We learnt this week, from ANC statements, after more than 10 days silence, Mr. Jordan has resigned from parliament, and offered to resign from the NEC of the ANC and the ANC itself. The ANC in parliament accepted his resignation, but referred his offer to resign from the NEC and the party to "ANC structures". We are yet to learn of their decision.

Given his contribution to public discourse, and the fact that he was accepted and referred to as "Dr" in public, he needs to come clean to South Africa and the World. To maintain the honour of being referred to as Dr (PhD), and the hard work that goes into the degree, if the allegation is true, I implore Mr. Pallo Jordan to do the right thing.