A WAR of words has broken out between Unisa and playwright Sam Mhangwani.

This after the university distanced itself from Sam’s doctorate.

Earlier this week, Sam told Daily Sun Unisa awarded him with an honorary doctorate for his contribution in arts.

According to Sam, the graduation was held on Saturday, 13 November.

But Unisa described Sam’s honorary degree as a scam.

In a statement, it said: “Unisa wishes to state categorically it has NOT conferred any such honour on Mr Mhangwani and any assertion to this effect is simply NOT TRUE.

“What makes the matter even more shocking and worrisome is the university, having been tipped off about the planned awarding of the honorary doctorate, warned Mhangwani through a member of his family and in writing, that this had all the hallmarks of a scam as there was no such decision by the university to confer any honorary degree on him. The university advised Mhangwani or the family should report the matter to police.”

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Acting deputy registrar Matthews Kokong confirmed Sam was warned.

“Unisa is disappointed that, in spite of its warning and advice, the event to award the fictitious honorary doctorate to Mhangwani appears to have proceeded, with pictures from the event forming part of the Sowetan article and Mhangwani quoted in the article as confirming he received this honorary doctorate from Unisa.

“We distance ourselves from this matter completely and take offence at the misuse of the Unisa name for criminal conduct. We directed officials in the university to urgently attend to this with the aim of bringing to book anyone found involved in this illegal action and to protect the reputation of our university.”

But Sam was having none of it. He said: “I was a victim of circumstances. I was contacted by people who claimed to be from Unisa. They asked for my profile and I sent it through. I was later informed I’d receive this doctorate for my contributions in arts. I didn’t suspect anything because everything seemed to be legit.

“Prior to the graduation date I received a rumour that this was a scam. I informed the institution, but they dismissed the rumour and even promised to investigate. Eventually, I attended the graduation and there were no hassles. It was held inside Unisa premises and all graduation protocols were followed. There were even professors from this institution. More than 25 high-profiled people received doctorates on that day. I even got my graduation gown, hood and cap from this institution. Therefore, Unisa knew about this, otherwise they’d have stopped this event.”

He said he was saddened because he has a reputation to protect.

“Whether I deserve to be recognised or not is another story. Right now, I feel Unisa should give us another explanation, not this lame excuse.”