As President Mokgweetsi Masisi prepares to receive an honorary doctorate from the University of Botswana (UB) tomorrow, it has emerged that the procedure may not have been followed as the University Council was sidelined in the matter.
The highest decision-making body of the UB, the Council, was not informed about the conferment of the doctorate on Masisi.
Explaining the process that leads to one being honoured, a high ranking official at UB says: “The procedure as set out in Article 7 of the University of Botswana Act is that there was supposed to be nominations by members of the University.
The names that are nominated are supposed to go through the Academic Honours Committee which debates the names, votes and passes the resolutions whether they agree or not.”
From the Academic Honours Committee, the resolutions then go to the University Senate, which then makes recommendations to the Council. According to the UB Act, two-thirds majority should vote for that resolution in the Senate. Explains the source: “For someone to say that two-thirds has passed the resolution, there must be evidence presented before the Council and in this case there was none”.
The two-thirds rule also applies at Council. “In this particular instance, Council never sat. Instead, members of Council learnt with shock that there were two professors, one a Zimbabwean national, and the other a South African, who were chosen to represent them at the Academic Honours Committee. The two are not even members of Council.”
Members of Council got to learn that the idea to honour Masisi was apparently initiated by the UB Vice Chancellor Professor David Norris who, it is alleged, informed few people in his circles amongst the various UB committees about his thoughts.
It is further alleged that Norris then informed the Office of the President about his thoughts before the matter could be tabled before the Cabinet. According to sources Cabinet approved Norris’ proposal.
“The UB Council then met and questioned why Masisi was being honoured since they believed it was still premature to confer him a doctorate degree”.
After receiving clarification from the Academic Honours Committee regarding the criteria used to honour Masisi, Tertiary Education, Research, Science and Technology Minister, Ngaka Ngaka wrote to Council members terminating their contracts citing that they had served two terms and appointed new members.
One of the dismissed members is the Council Chairperson, prominent lawyer Parks Tafa. Mmegi is reliably informed that Tafa has written Ngaka informing him that he has misdirected himself by firing him from the Council. Dr Joseph Makhema has replaced Tafa as the new chairperson.
It remains to be seen if Tafa will attend the Council meeting that is scheduled for today at 11am.
The acting Council chairperson, Mathias Chakalisa, referred all inquiries to Tafa who also declined to comment.
In response, the UB spokesperson Mhitshane Reetsang said the institution awards honorary degrees to individuals whose accomplishments provide inspiration and leadership to its graduates.
The award also recognises an individual’s service to the community nationally or internationally. “Protocol was followed. The awardee did not apply for the award, he was nominated,” Reetsang said.
She further said the same process that was previously followed in conferring honorary doctorates in term of Statutes No. 54 of the University of Botswana Statutes was followed in the case of Masisi. She denied allegations that the issue has split the UB Council, adding that no Council member has quit nor has any been fired.