Botswana is sold for honorary doctorate degree handouts

In the 1800s part of an area called Botswana today (the Tuli Block) was said to have been given away to the colonialists in exchange for a bottle of whisky.

Today we witness Botswana being sold for less than a dime. The country is virtually being sold in exchange for pieces of paper they call honorary doctorate degrees and silly little fake academic gowns.

Surprisingly the honorary PhDs are dished out mostly by external academic institutions, some of which don’t even offer undergraduate degrees. The targets are who is who in influential and powerful political positions with close links to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) - Dr Festus Mogae, Dr Margaret Nasha, Dr Ponatshego Kedikilwe, Dr Pelonomi Venson- Moitoi, Dr Unity Dow, and Lt. Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

If past trends are anything to go by soon we shall have Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, Dr Isaac Kgosi, Dr Eric Molale, Dr Thapelo Olopeng, Dr Shaw Kgathi, Dr Tshekedi Khama, and Dr Dorcus Makgato.  When it comes to politicians who acquired doctorate or medical degrees through training it is Botswana Congress Party (BCP) that leads the pack.

This avalanche of honorary doctorate degrees raises the questions of who deserves to be awarded such a rare honour. Please don’t get me wrong. There is nothing wrong in awarding politicians honorary doctorate degrees. However, there is something particularly worrisome when there is no single politician associated with the opposition who has been awarded an honorary doctorate degree since 1966. I can mention a few who are more deserving than many of the beneficiaries listed above – Michael Kitso Dingake, Patrick Van Reinsburg, Elsie Alexander, Sandy Grant, and Roy Sesana to mention but a few. These are individuals who have contributed immensely to the development of this country through their community activism and/or educational writing works.

An equally important question worth interrogating is why external academic institutions, some of which are less known appear to target powerful politicians associated with the ruling party. As mentioned above some of these institutions don’t even offer undergraduate degree programmes. What is it that they see in BDP politicians that the University of Botswana and Botswana College of Agriculture don’t see? Your guess is as good as mine – subtle bribery to attract favours. With billions of the annual budget allocated to tertiary student financing under the Ministry of Education and Skills Development it is not surprising that a Minister responsible is targeted.  It is not by coincidence that President Khama was awarded an honorary doctorate degree by a South Korean institution while on a state visit (or was it a shopping visit) to negotiate deals to purchase T-50 Trainer Jets for the Botswana Defence Force (BDF) worth billions of pula.

Out of all the beneficiaries of this fraudulent exercise of awarding honorary doctorate degrees to undeserving candidates, the latest award to President Khama was the biggest surprise. The truth is that Khama is contemptuous of educated Batswana and the leading local academic institutions to the extent of refusing to be the Vice Chancellor of the University of Botswana as had been the tradition. This triggered an amendment of the University of Botswana regulations. Under his rule academic freedom has been under constant attack.

President Khama is intolerant of divergent views, a position that is antagonistic to universal thought. Since he assumed the highest office we have witnessed a dramatic decline in examination results. Khama has presided over a wealthy country that sees nothing wrong in transporting school children in open trucks. Erosion of civil liberties, undermining media freedom, the rule of law and tightly controlled oversight institutions have become the order of the day under his government. We have added new undesirable words to our daily vocabulary such as extra-judicial killings, forum shopping, kleptocracy, and proclamations to name but a few, thanks to the despotic Khama regime.

Kesitegile Gobotswang (PhD)

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