Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Inside intrigues to stop conferring a PhD on Masisi

A series of nocturnal meetings and heated disagreements among some in the leadership of the University of Botswana management and the University Council ended up with one of them saying a false reason should be concocted to stop conferring a doctorate degree on President Mokgweetsi Masisi.

When others balked at the idea and started asking what reasons would be given to the nation after a public announcement had already been made that Masisi would receive an honorary degree one member of the University Council suggested that “we can tell the nation that Masisi’s aircaft delayed from England.”

This upset the other members of the team that felt it would be a cheap stunt.

That led to a mighty fallout among them the culmination of which was the sacking of Parks Tafa as Chairman of the UB Council, the Sunday Standard has learnt.

And the situation was saved only when a new UB Council was hastily assembled to formalize the conferment.

By that time Tafa’s position had been terminated by Ngaka Ngaka, the minister responsible for tertiary education.

In his position was appointed Joseph Makhema.

As it turned out the University of Botswana found itself caught in the middle of a much bigger political agenda to undermine president Masisi.

At the apex of the anti-Masisi brigade sits former President Ian Khama.

Tafa is a long time Khama ally.

“I regret to inform you that your appointment as Chairperson of the University of Botswana Council is hereby terminated,” reads in part the letter to Tafa as seen by Sunday Standard.

Tafa’s replacement Dr Joseph Makhema is a senior medical practitioner with vast experience including managing the Botswana chapter of PEPFAR (The United States President Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief), a global initiative by America to help fight HIV/AIDS.

When the university announced that a decision had been taken to honour Masisi with a doctorate degree a groundswell of opposition was mounted much of it targeting Vice Chancellor professor David Norris.

Some of the senior academic staff went so far as to question just what Masisi had done for the university or for Botswana to deserve such an honour, this notwithstanding the fact that Masisi was until recently a Chancellor of the university.

He’s also a former student.

Clearly liasing with their like-minded from inside the university, those against Masisi outside the university had also started mounting a parallel campaign to question and cast aspersions on the president’s academic qualifications.

When their efforts failed, alternative attempts were made to forestall the already advanced preparations to award him a doctorate.

In an interview, Professor Norris said there had been no political pressure on the university management to award the doctorate.

“We felt the president was deserving. And all normal processes were followed, starting with executive management kick-starting the process all the way up to the Senate which by the way gave an unanimous approval. Those of us who were closely involved in the process since it started have been shocked by what we read in the papers,” said Professor Norris.

By Saturday morning the Chancellor of the university, Ms Linah Mohohlo assisted by Professor Norris conferred the doctorate on president Masisi who a few minutes earlier had landed from England.

His aircraft had not delayed.

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