Any university—whether credible, backstreet or an outright diploma mill—from any corner of the world is at liberty to distribute to our leaders degrees in any form.
As Malawians, we cannot have any qualms or quarrel with it as there is no basis for doing so.
But while doing this, the foreign universities have no right to insult Malawians by citing falsehoods when distributing these worthless papers to our leaders in the manner that the University of Jeonju in South Korea did last week when it decided to bestow an honorary doctorate on President Joyce Banda.
In its citation, the university said it awarded the degree to the President in recognition of her efforts to improve the Malawi economy.
It is my utmost belief that any credible institution would first of all research—which is the whole essence universities exist—before coming up with reasons to bestow upon someone any honour.
The question is: Which economy has Banda improved, how and when?
On what basis would someone call the Malawi economy improved unless that someone is mad or is high on some dangerous intoxicants or lives on Mars and not on this earth or in Malawi?
I know Asia is thousands of kilometres away from Malawi, but the minimum I would have expected from an institution that has the audacity of calling itself a place of higher learning is to conduct even some semblance of research on what life is in Malawi because through that, it would have seen the need to give a different citation in awarding the President a degree and not base it on the ailing economy.
It is an insult for anybody to say the Malawi economy has improved and give someone a degree for it because it has not and this is based on any assessment anybody can dream of. You do not even need to talk about fundamentals such as inflation or cost of borrowing as everything has gone haywire economically in Malawi.
If it had researched, this Korean university would have learnt that all Banda has done is adopt IMF-dictated policies whose fruits, if any, are yet to be seen at the moment.
All Malawians know now is hell and gnashing of teeth while still on earth as the cost of living has skyrocketed.
Maybe the university could have waited as all Malawians are doing after being told by the JB administration that the economy will only improve after 18 months from the time it took over.
Never mind that this is actually coinciding with next year’s May elections.
And why is it that it is only mostly Malawi whose leaders are so excited about honorary doctorates?
Is it because our leaders lack so much confidence in themselves unless someone decides to add a title of Dr to their names?
Robert Mugabe, a man the Western world has vilified so much that you would think he is a devil incarnate, for his land redistribution programme in Zimbabwe, has so many honorary doctorates, but he has not ordered his government to change all his portraits to add the title Dr. He is happy to be called Comrade Robert Gabriel Mugabe to emphasise his Marxist orientation and in brotherhood with his contemporaries.
I do not even need to write about Nelson Mandela whose name is embedded in so many streets in renowned world cities and to whom honorary doctorates are not an issue such that he stopped counting them many years ago, yet he never stooped so low as to ask anybody to call him doctor. Former Mozambican president Joaquim Chissano was awarded an honorary degree by the University of Malawi but has never used it as part of his title.
One would say it is a choice, but the question is: Why is it that it is only our leaders that make that choice?
But let them make that choice based on the truth. Banda has not yet improved the Malawi economy and that Korean university had no right to insult Malawians by lying to justify the award of a worthless paper to her.