Academics yesterday dismissed honorary doctorate degrees conferred on various personalities by the Philanthropy Institute of Zimbabwe arguing that the institution has no authority to do so. PIZ conferred honorary degrees to musician Oliver Mtukudzi, United Family Church International's Ruth Makandiwa, Isabel Chihuri wife of Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, Zimbabwe National Roads Administration chief executive Mr Frank Chitukutuku, Avenues Clinic managing director Ms Merissa Kambani and Pastor Ruth Musarurwa of Christ Embassy.
Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) commissioner-general Gershem Pasi snubbed the occasion and the qualification saying he is still known as Mr Pasi.
"As a result, neither Mr Pasi nor any member of his family or Zimra attended the degree conferment or graduation held in Harare recently," read part of the statement issued by Zimra yesterday.
PIZ founder, Enrico Sibanda yesterday insisted that his institution was registered and had the right to confer honorary degrees and will continue to do so to those who have done great works in the society.
"We are not politicians but philanthropists and such as behave as such some have said the PIZ is bogus and that the degrees are bogus degrees. People have questioned our credibility and why we are giving honorary doctorates degrees of Philanthropy yet we are not a university.
"How then do we become bogus when Government registered us. We are going to continue to honour philanthropists whether it rains milk or blood. What we want as an institute is not to honour people post posthumously," said Sibanda.
He said Mr Pasi was not conferred with the degree because he did not attend the function.
University of Zimbabwe lecturer, Professor Sheunesu Mpepereki said it was impossible for a non academic institution to confer honorary degrees to members of the society.
"There are certain regulations that guide the conference of honorary degrees. Prospectus of universities normally have guidelines on how honorary degrees are conferred. The participation department normally nominates a person they see fit to be accorded the degree and make a write up stating the reasons why that person befits the status.
"Usually the person's area of specialty is associated with the courses or disciplines offered by the nominating department. This is then forwarded to the academic committee that sits and makes the decision. The nominee is then put on list of people getting honorary degrees on the graduation day.
"Therefore a non-academic institution does not qualify to confer authentic honorary degrees. Usually the institution should be accredited to the Zimbabwe Council of Higher Education," he said.
Midlands State University senior lecturer in the Media Studies Department Dr Nhamo Mhiripiri said this has been prevalent because of the prestige associated with obtaining a doctorate qualification earned from unaccredited institutions.
"It is coming from the need to attain a certain status in society and that becomes ridiculous. They pick up names of prominent people to get prominence for their organisations.
"It becomes paradoxical that the institution is not credible and the protocol or norm is that conferment is done after critical analysis and thorough research on the works of a certain individual are conducted and stored in a University's library," said Dr Mhiripiri.
He further indicated that one who is conferred with the honorary degree should not insist on being called by the title like President Mugabe who was conferred with numerous ones at home and abroad but is still called Mr.
Dr Mhiripiri said the conferment will make it look like it is a short-cut of doctorate degrees obtained at universities.
According to a document signed by the Registrar of Companies, the PIZ was registered on June 20, 2014 and it consists of three board of Trustees who are Enrico Mangono Sibanda (27), Tatenda Primrose Maziazia (23) and Malicious Nyamurima (32).
Efforts to get comment from ZIMCHE were unsuccessful.