Shire Times has learnt that the fraudulent honorary doctorate scam on Mphande and Namadingo was orchestrated by a Nigerian citizen, specifically a woman, as has been customary in such cases. As per our informant, individuals like Patience Namadingo, Pemphero Mphande, and a another were deceived into paying approximately 10 million Kwacha each for the counterfeit award.
“A Nigerian woman here (in South Africa) runs the scheme in cahoots with some low ranking members of UNISA. They book a room, invite a few people and they make it appear as if it is UNISA making the award. Some of the people are innocent, but others willingly pay to buy the fake honour,” the source said.
In Malawi, according to the source, Namadingo was the first of the scam victims. He fell for it, however, for personal glory.
“Thereafter, he has been putting his friends through this scam. He advises them to do some charity work so they can raise their profile. For example, K Motors started with fixing ambulances for free and then splashing that in newspapers. For Pemphero, it was that time he started doing all the fundraising. They were all doing it so they can get this fake honour. The scam is so elaborate that they would refuse to honour you if you do not have some profile,” the source said.
The scam has come to light following a statement released by the University of South Africa (Unisa) on Tuesday available on its official website denying ever conferring honorary doctorates on Malawian socialite Phemphero Mphande, Malawian musician Patience Namadingo and Mansoor Sharif Karim Approved.
In the statement authored by the University’s media affairs team comprising of Mr Edgar Rathelele and Mr Tommy Huma noted that the University had become aware, through social media posts and media queries, that Malawian socialite Pemphero Mphande, Malawian musician Patience Namadingo as well as a certain Mansoor Sharif Karim claim to have received honorary doctorates from the university in 2020, 2022 and 2023 respectively.
“Unisa wishes to state categorically that it has NOT conferred any such degrees on the trio and that any assertion to this effect is simply NOT TRUE. These three individuals are also not amongst the candidates considered and approved for the awarding of honorary doctorates in 2020, 2021 and 2023. Neither have they ever been nominated, considered or approved for such honours at any period whatsoever. No honorary degrees were awarded in 2022.
“Furthermore, the certificates displayed by Messrs Mphande and Namadingo respectively are definitely NOT Unisa degree certificates. For the record, the awarding of honorary doctorates at Unisa occurs through a strictly controlled process, with nominations and approvals handled through various governance structures of the university until final approval by the University Council. 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,” reads the statement.
“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. Relevant officials within the university have been directed to look into this matter and ensure that these individuals are held to account and also made to retract any false claims”, said Acting Registrar, Professor Moloko Sepota.
When Mphande was awarded the said fake honorary degree, Mphande said the following:
“Today, 4th November 2023, I was awarded an Honorary Doctorate in Community Development at the University of South Africa in Pretoria. This is in recognition of the work we have been doing of supporting the less privileged that have seen us raise over 200 million Kwacha over the years. We have supported over 10 people get lifesaving treatment abroad, supported over 50 needy students with fees and other needs, we have supported orphans through orphanages and many other people.
“It is also in recognition of our social impact overall including psychosocial support to those who are battling depression and other mental health issues. This Honorary Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) belongs to all of you- the praise team. This is motivation for us to do more and better. May God be with us!”