Fake degrees and documents

The two investigative stories which we feature in this chapter were published by the Botswana Gazette and Mmegi newspapers in collaboration with the INK Centre for Investigative Journalism, a new organisation founded by Joel Konopo and Ntibinyane Ntibinyane around 2015. The first story, ‘Botho fires “Dr Fake” as BAC panics’, published by the Botswana Gazette on 31 August 2016, exposes academic staff at mainly private tertiary institutions in Botswana with fake degrees. The story took at least two months to investigate and covered two local universities, Botho University and Botswana Accountancy College. The journalists demonstrated that two universities from which the academics in these institutions had received their degrees, New World Mission Dunamis International University (NWMD) in Cape Town and the Northern Ireland Institute of Business Technology (NIIBT) in Belfast, were bogus. They undertook physical checks, travelling to the location of these ‘universities’ to ascertain how they look and what happens there. They established that the address of NWMD in South Africa is just an office and in London just coffee shops and a parking lot. The website does not state the location of the university, a huge pointer to fraud. As for NIIBT, the journalists revealed that it is not only a shell company but that the provided postcode leads to a property company with no links with education.

The journalists also demonstrated their understanding of academic operational issues. A PhD is an onerous degree which takes at least three years to finish in most universities globally and it would raise eyebrows if anybody claims to have finished two PhDs simultaneously, as a Botho University business sciences lecturer did. Accreditation was another issue. Most universities would seek prestigious accreditation for their programmes and any institution not linked to such accreditation bodies like these two would engender serious suspicion. In addition, a PhD is a demonstration of original research, a major contribution to the field by a graduate. If he or she can’t produce their thesis, then that is a strong signal of a dubious doctorate. The story is significant for two reasons. First it put the national qualifications watchdog, the Botswana Qualifications Authority, on the spot, challenging them to be more circumspect in their work. Secondly, a good investigative story normally has consequences. In this case, the authorities at Botho College dismissed the lecturers. The INK Centre followed up with another article dated 28 July 2017 titled, ‘DIS report on opposition is fake’. What is remarkable about this article is that the report was not equivocal about what was claimed. It boldly stated that a report on alleged state intelligence agency interference in the opposition was fraudulent. After making the declaration, the INK Centre justified its conclusion. The metadata on the document revealed the authors of the article. It also revealed that the document was created in July 2017 and not 2016 as claimed in it. Significantly, it was created at the time when the two warring factions in the opposition party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), were due to hold a congress. It was meant to give an edge to one of the factions in anticipation of the chaos that eventually erupted at the Congress. The Centre was able to tell the dates, times and place the document was created, the kind of computer used and the total time spent creating it. The document also contained information which was plagiarised from media articles, prompting the Centre to conclude that the work was amateurish. The plagiarism included verbatim quotes from one newspaper article, with no attempt to edit them. The Centre picked out even more basic mistakes like out-dated facts about the place of employment of the wife of one of the opposition leaders who had left her previous job over five years ago. Even the designation of the purported author of the report was not the director at DISS, as claimed. These pointed to serious credibility issues.

The presentation and formatting of the report also gave it away, the Centre observed. Intelligence agents do not normally reveal their identities, often using codes. But in this document, the purported author gave out his identity number. The Centre would not have managed to do this outstanding investigation without resources. They called on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) whose software engineer, Matthew Caruana Galizia, helped them analyse the document, as well as local experts on intelligence and metadata.

Botho fires ‘Dr Fake’ as BAC panics Queen Mosare, Lawrence Seretse & Joel Konopo, Botswana
Gazette, 1 September 2016

The presentation and formatting of the report also gave it away, the Centre observed. Intelligence agents do not normally reveal their identities, often using codes. But in this document, the purported author gave out his identity number. The Centre would not have managed to do this outstanding investigation without resources. They called on the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) whose software engineer, Matthew Caruana Galizia, helped them analyse the document, as well as local experts on intelligence and metadata.Two lecturers have been fired from a Botswana college for obtaining fake degrees from a university apparently based in the wilds of the Northern Cape. Botho University, a private college in Botswana specialising in business and IT education, has fired two lecturers after discovering that they obtained their doctoral degrees from a ‘university’ apparently based in the wilds of the Northern Cape. The institution in question is the New World Mission Dunamis International University (NWMD), which claims on its website to be based in Cape Town but offers no address. However, a source in the Botswana Qualifications Authority said its application to the authority gave its address as ‘Globbershoop’ – apparently a misspelling of the remote Northern Cape town of Groblershoop. According to South Africa’s most recent census, Groblershoop has a population of about 5000. In its list of private educational institutions, updated in August 2016, South Africa’s department of higher education and training brands the organisation as ‘a complete fraud’. In the United States, the Michigan Civil Service Commission has said that NWMD’s degrees do not satisfy the educational requirements indicated for job specifications. This emerged from an investigation by the Botswana Gazette newspaper and the Gaborone-based INK Centre for Investigative Journalism.

Botho pro-vice chancellor Lucky Moahi confirmed that business science lecturers Stanley Thuku Waithaka and Busisiwe Ndlovu were employed on the strength of PhD degrees from NWMD. He added: ‘However, in July 2016, when we were alerted to the fact that the … institution was not approved by the regulators, we immediately took the necessary action and have since terminated their contracts of employment …’ The source said Ndlovu received two doctoral degrees in one year, 2012, from the alleged learning institution … (NIBBT) offers a ‘fast-track programme’ that allows students to complete their degrees in a shorter time. Using this programme students can earn a first degree for $300 or R2500. However, it adds that ‘some qualifications may not be recognised by your country of governmental departments’ and warns that ‘employers and others have got the right to reject your qualifications and that this is not our responsibility’. A BA programme costs R3000 or R3500, and an MA degree R4000 or R4500. Ndlovu, whose student number was 29-140-245, enrolled for a PhD at NWMD in 2010 ‘majoring in leadership, business administration’, and graduated in June 2013. He also has an MBA from an institution called the National University of Science and Technology. Ndlovu did not respond to questions sent to him three weeks ago. Documents show that Waithaka ‘enrolled’ for a PhD at about the same time as Ndlovu and graduated with two PhDs, in business studies and business administration, in 2012. It takes an average of between three and five years to complete a PhD at a conventional university. The fact that Botho employed the two unqualified lecturers for several years has raised questions about its recruitment and verification processes.

In an online posting, Richard Harriman of Botswana’s Consumer Watchdog says the NIIBT does not appear on the company registers of either Britain or the Republic of Ireland. Its Malaysian addresses, he says, are ‘no more than post boxes’. Harriman comments that the Irish companies register records the existence of the Royal Ireland Institute of Business and Technology, but that this was dissolved in 2012. The Botswana Gazette asked Anyona to supply a copy of his doctoral thesis. He responded that he was not obliged to make the thesis public. In response to questions about his doctoral degree, he said that the Botswana Qualifications Authority had successfully evaluated his qualifications and that they were recognised in Kenya. He added that the degree was recognised by the Open University Europa, a member of the International Council for Open and Distance Education. Asked about Anyona’s qualifications, BAC spokesperson Mpho Mokgosi said: ‘We are constrained in discussing employee personal information … and trust that he is best placed to respond to questions of personal nature.’ Mokgosi said the BAC followed a rigorous and transparent recruitment process when it employed the Kenyan in 2012, and that BAC lecturers are accredited by the Botswana Qualifications Authority and ‘partner universities’ in the UK.

‘Our partner universities also subscribe to international higher learning bodies which accredits all lecturer qualifications attained internationally,’ he said. According to the UK’s education department, as many as 200 institutions offer bogus degrees in Britain. The Botswana authority monitors and audits all accredited institutions to ensure ‘continued compliance’ in accordance with the law, but has never revoked the licence of a major institution on grounds that it employs lecturers with qualifications from ‘degree mills’.

DIS report on opposition is fake
INK Centre, Mmegi, 28 July 2017

Soon after the opposition Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) returned from a violent congress in Bobonong, the media was awash with a document – code named Tholwana Borethe – claiming to reveal a secret plot by the spy agency to disrupt the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) from toppling the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in the 2019 general election. INK Centre analysed the document with the help of International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) software engineer Matthew Caruana Galizia and other local experts on intelligence and metadata, and established that the Tholwana Borethe was done in haste and carried serious and elementary errors. The metadata inadvertently left on the purported intelligence report lucidly exposed the authors of the documents. The most interesting finding is that the document was created a few days before the last BMD congress in Bobonong, not in 2016 as previously stated. The report was created on two different dates in July. The first document, which was first sent to Botswana Guardian, was created on July 10, 2017, at 9:17pm and was last saved on July 12, 2017 at 09:29am.

The document was created from a desktop computer at a Gaborone suburb, which the metadata identified as using Microsoft Word 2001–2004. The total time for editing and writing the document is 139 minutes, according to the document’s metadata. The other report, which was later passed to Mmegi, Sunday Standard, Business Weekly and Botswana Gazette was created on July 12, 2017 at 12:46pm using the same computer. The PDF document also offers hints about its authenticity and origins. It was created using MS Word 2001–2004, and later by the latest MS Word 2016, the metadata left on the PDF document show. The document was later converted to PDF using Adobe 1.5 (Acrobat 6.x) version.

documents are the stark and obvious inconsistencies regarding the fake dates the report was prepared for the DIS Director, Isaac Kgosi. The dates do not correspond with the dates left on the metadata. The first report passed to the Botswana Guardian was allegedly authored by DIS Special Task Team ‘director’, Tsosoloso Mosinki on February 28, 2016. It is not clear why the report passed on to other publications on the same report claimed that the report was produced on June 28, 2016. A security and intelligence expert engaged by INK Centre concluded that, ‘Clearly the report was manufactured by amateurs. They failed the basic test of covering their tracks.’ Another commented, ‘It is possible to forge the creation date, but I don’t think there’s a logical reason for them to have done that.

What is emerging from the analysis of the report is that unlike most intelligence reports, which rely on newly obtained intelligence gathered from sources within political movements, the report was an act of plagiarism that further missed key and basic facts. While the intelligence communities often use open source intelligence (OSINT), the level of plagiarism on the report raises red flags. For example, at least 80% of the contents of the ‘intelligence report’ are picked from news articles by Mmegi newspaper. The report also plagiarised articles by Gabz FM and European Times reporters … One of the greatest blemishes in the Tholwana Borethe report is that it missed key facts. For example, it missed facts about Saleshando wife Dineo’s employment. The report says that Dineo works for Standard Chartered Bank as head of Retail, Credit Policy for Southern Africa. In actual fact Dineo left Standard Chartered Bank more than five years ago, and now works for Barclays Bank … The format used by the authors of the document is wanting. Intelligence reports are often laced with secret code names. In the intelligence world, this is policy. At least two sources consulted by INK Centre have confirmed.