Dear 'Dr' Pallo Zweledinga Jordan

2014-08-05 12:53

Dear ‘Dr’ Pallo Zweledinga Jordan

I had never imagined a day I would write to you in this fashion. For the longest time, I have admired your intellect and the distinct voice you articulate it with. I still admire your intellect even as I write this. However, I am also mindful that as human beings our values, morals and ethics are tested most when those we admire err. If as a person I disagree with dishonesty, I must continue to disagree even when an individual I admire and/or love is being dishonest – my indifference would be on its own a dishonest act to my true character.

Since the revelations in the Sunday Times newspaper, that you might have falsely claimed qualifications you have never read for in your life, your silence has been audible. It makes me wonder if you might have inconveniently been forced into another era of exile, even though South African politics are no longer in a state that would force us into exile. I hope that at some point you will resurface, tell the truth and let this ghost to rest.

The person who revealed these claims, Gareth van Onselen, is not one I particularly like; however, the concept of logic is that irrespective of who makes the claim, if the flow of logic in the tale has an element of truth, that tale must be taken seriously. Thus, those people who are solely defending you based on not liking the person who broke the story are doing a disservice to their own intellectual faculties. This is not even a thing of taking sides. A person either has qualifications (through hard and strenuous labour) from an institution of higher education or does not have them. It is very simple. At the level of doctoral studies, a comprehensive thesis is required – irrespective of its blandness or prowess, it is required as evidence.

Education is very important and it can be a strenuous hierarchy to get through. It is filled with moments of hardship, joy, success and disappointment. It takes years to accomplish. Some of us, in pursuance of a PhD, are defying the hopes and dreams of our families that by now we should be working, earning money and ploughing back home to alleviate the financial strain and burden. With your level of intellectualism, you know very well the complex and obvious circumstances that inhibit black South Africans in particular to pursue postgraduate studies beyond an Honours Degree.

The attainment of a PhD, which I hope to legitimately receive in the next five years, is the pinnacle of education success and the culmination of hard work, sacrifice and struggle to produce a positive outcome that all can be proud of. I already know I wish to slaughter at least three cows the day I am robed in that red gown – there is just something about it. Beyond that it easily shows how far one has gone in the education hierarchy, it also demonstrates to the individual their sense of success, tenacity and staying power. It is not an easy journey – especially for us black people.

Therefore, those black people who currently hold PhDs stand as beacons of hope for those of us still struggling towards one. They are a testimony that it is possible, it can be done and we must keep pursuing this noble objective. Formal education is not the end and be it all; however, it is often through formal education that we discover our intellectual appetites, that we change our ideological outlooks and at times affiliations with certain organisations and institutions around the world.

Formal education is valuable, it teaches certain tools that one might not have ordinarily come across outside academia. Obviously, the higher you go in the education hierarchy the better tools you are exposed to. Formal education does not bestow one with intellectuality; it simply grows, expands and carves the rough edges of one’s intellectual abilities. Therefore, you do not need a PhD to be an intellectual, a reputable critical thinker, innovator and man of sound ideas.

However, I suspect that you also realised that having a PhD gives you a particular muscle and a certain currency that comes with respect of distinction. People admire, especially a black man or woman, who has a PhD and especially in your generation when opportunities were so slim and life so grim. Therefore, when suspicion is cast, that a claim for a PhD by an individual admired by many is false, many hopes and dreams are challenged. Many hearts and minds are challenged and a sense of despair is felt. Because, anyone who fakes it dents the image of others who hold it. We begin to wonder; how many more are faking it?

I am particularly worried by the continuous emergence of news that people in top positions and pedestals of life in our country have faked or falsely claimed qualifications at some point in their lives. The problem with this nature of dishonesty is that it removes any hope that they conduct their work with the highest possible kind of integrity. This is important because we are trying to build a society that is anchored in good governance, sound ethics, human integrity and social justice. When dishonesty exists, it crushes the possible attainment of that kind of a society.

Justice Yacoob writing his judgment on Democratic Alliance vs President of South Africa and Others, regarding the appointment of Menzi Simelane as NDPP, said, “Dishonesty is dishonesty wherever it occurs” – it has no relativity to context or circumstance.

When we admire we should never do so blindly. Even those who followed – even idolized – Lance Armstrong had their worlds and dreams shuttered at the revelation of how he used illegal performance enhancers to propel his career. These are all problematic dishonest acts – they denigrate the value of honest hard work. Obviously, some of the access to journals that you wrote for could have been gained through your fabricated title. The simplest thing for you to do is to come out and dispel the ‘myth’ or bring it to full life and ask for forgiveness after explaining the need to claim that which you never had.

The reason governance in this country is so poor is because of dishonesty, lack of integrity and consciousness amongst public officials and politicians in your organisation. In the eyes of many, you have now sunk right into that abyss that keeps those comrades of yours that ransack the state of its resources. You are now a man of doubtful integrity – which means even the critical things you may have written such as on the Nkandla debacle were merely dishonest acts to gain currency in the public. It may be that you never truly believed in them, it may be that you did it as an exercise to pacify your own conscience of your own dishonesty.

Even if Gareth was tipped-off by an ANC member who now has a stone to grind, with a political motive to discredit you, that means nothing at this stage. What matters is whether we have lived under an illusion succumbing to your spell of deceit that smells of deep conceit; to confer upon thy self that which you felt so entitled to (a PhD) without toiling for it. This is a litmus test on your character, your integrity and standing in society – will you pass it? That is up to you, we want the evidence.

I wrote you this letter out of disappointment and being let down. By now, you should have said something. Deep down there exists some hope that you will untangle yourself from this web of allegations. It will be a pity if you remain suffocated and killed by it into exile of silence. If this happens, you will have to know that your own dishonesty has taken you “to the cleaners, the dry cleaners plus the laundry!”

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