READER LETTER | Honorary doctorate is honorific and not a title

Zwelinzima Vavi.
Zwelinzima Vavi.
Image: supplied

By admitting that he "was duped" in being conferred with an honorary doctorate from a bogus university, Zwelinzima Vavi should be congratulated for honesty and integrity because virtually none of such conferees would so publicly acknowledge it. Vavi is an exception. He teaches our youngsters the value of integrity (Sowetan, April 23).

But the problem is bigger than the issue of bogus universities and honoris causa doctorates. Were these honorary doctorates conferred by legitimate registered universities would the so-honoured be entitled to be called Dr So and So? Would, for example, a Sikasu Serunye be qualified to post a social media caption such as the following: "Graduation day. Honour me as Dr Sikasu Serunye"? Of course not. Why? Simply because as I have stated several times in the past in my letters to Sowetan, an honoris causa doctorate is never a title to be placed before one's name. It is an honorific only to be used in letters, articles or correspondence as in the following: Ms Sikasu Serunye, PhD, honoris causa, jazz music, etc. (XYZ University).

Established universities do inform their honoured that theirs is an honorific and not a title. If Winnie Mashaba or Danny Jordaan is a doctor, then what do we call a qualified doctor? If the unqualified and the qualified wear the same titles and gowns and caps, how do we distinguish the false from the real? Or is there no difference? Only in a banana republic called Mzansi is such a comedy a reality.

Prof Themba Sono, email

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