Pallo Jordan's phantom doctorate
Pallo Jordan, regarded as one of South Africa's foremost intellectuals and an ANC stalwart, has no formal academic qualifications - in spite of numerous mentions of a doctorate from a UK university.
A Sunday Times investigation could find no evidence that Jordan - who goes by the title "Dr" - has ever earned a PhD or even had an honorary doctorate bestowed on him.
After two weeks of promising to provide the Sunday Times with answers to questions about his qualifications, Jordan has failed to do so.
Jordan has no degrees or diplomas from the University of Wisconsin-Madison or the London School of Economics (LSE), the two institutions cited on his CV.
As far as the Sunday Times could ascertain, he has no formal tertiary academic qualifications whatsoever.
Jordan's official CV, as it appears on the Government Communications and Information System's website and elsewhere, is titled, "Zweledinga Pallo Jordan, Dr".
Under "academic qualifications", it states: "Dr Jordan studied at the University of Wisconsin in the United States of America in 1962 and he acquired a postgraduate degree from the London School of Economics."
However, the office of the registrar at the LSE has told the Sunday Times: "We can find no record of Zweledinga Pallo Jordan having been awarded a PhD from the school."
No evidence could be found of him being awarded an honorary doctorate and he cites no other qualifications on his CV.
Asked whether Jordan had obtained any degree or diploma from the LSE, the registrar's office replied that there existed "no record for Zweledinga Pallo Jordan at the LSE".
The office of the student services registrar at the University of Wisconsin-Madison confirmed that Jordan did study there, making this claim on his CV technically true.
But he obtained only 97 credits between September 16 1963 and February 24 1964 and never completed his degree.
The university's records for degrees under Jordan's name returned "none".
Jordan is a senior ANC member, a former minister of arts and culture, a current member of parliament and a representative to the Pan-African Parliament.
He is widely regarded inside and outside academic circles as a leading intellectual.
In his official capacity as the minister of arts and culture (2004-2009) he has delivered many speeches as either "Dr Pallo Jordan", "Dr PZ Jordan" or "Dr Z Pallo Jordan". The site www.gov.za returns 347 hits for the search "Dr ZP Jordan".
As "Dr Jordan" he has written for the ANC's weekly newsletter ANC Today, for journals - such as issue 45 of South African Journal of Social and Economic Policy - and has appeared at international conferences under that title.
In countless interviews on radio, television and in print he has been referred to as "Dr Jordan".
In Lady Grey, in the Eastern Cape, there even exists a "Dr Pallo Jordan Primary School".
For two weeks the Sunday Times has sought comment from Jordan to no avail.
The three questions, first put to him on July 16, were:
- What are your formal academic qualifications?
- On what basis do you use the title "Dr"?
- Can you help explain the LSE's response?
Despite numerous e-mails and SMS requests - see the full SMS exchange in the accompanying story - Jordan failed to provide substantive answers. Among other undertakings, he said he would phone, provide a preliminary account via e-mail, meet face-to-face on his return from a trip abroad, and provide "supplementary documentation" (but, significantly, no degree certificates). He reneged on all these commitments.
On Monday this week Jordan sent the following SMS: "I had hoped that my chosen biographer wud b the one who collects on the Faustian bargain I made 30 years ago. U have taken that role with no invitation. So, here's the deal. U can wait for me to get home, and I give u a full biography of a key player in SA politics over the past thirty odd years. It cud rival Gevisser's Dream Deferred. Or you could go for a Profumo [sic] story that burns out in month or less. I am still en route home and haven't read your e-mail."
Jordan did not explain what he meant by "Faustian bargain". Dream Deferred is the title of Mark Gevisser's biography of Thabo Mbeki.
The message represented an attempt to defer or abort the potential story in exchange for exclusive access to Jordan's life history, for the purposes of a book. The Sunday Times declined.
Jordan first made the suggestion of a biography on July 19, texting: "I had hoped that my selected biographer would be the one who writes up the twisted narrative of my life. But, it appears that a would-be detractor will be the person to do so."
On July 23, he first made an offer of collaborating on his biography in exchange for killing the story, texting: "Refer my SMS, 19:7? Hold whatever u r doing, and u cud b that biographer."
After the Sunday Times informed Jordan it intended to go to print, having afforded him a reasonable time to respond, he sent a message on Tuesday this week saying he was now in England: "In London regarding your queries ... expect correspondence from here in the next day or two responding to your queries."
The promised correspondence never arrived. Finally, on Thursday, Jordan sent a message threatening court action: "I'll take you to the cleaners, the dry cleaners plus the laundry!! So do what you wanna!!" However, he still provided no answer to the questions put to him.
Although he has never officially claimed them, third party biographical profiles have attributed other academic qualifications to Jordan over the years.
They include a bachelor's degree at Wisconsin, a doctorate in economics at the LSE, a history degree from the University of Michigan and a history degree from the University of Cape Town.
According to the registrar's office at UCT, their records do not show Jordan ever having studied there. The certification department at University of Michigan could find no evidence of Jordan having been at that institution but its older records are kept on microfilm and it would take more than a week to verify that fact. Apart from the LSE, there are no other references to a doctorate.
Jordan is the son of AC Jordan, an eminent writer and the first black professor at UCT. He died in 1968.
His mother Phyllis Ntantala is also an eminent academic and writer, who has lectured at the University of Michigan.
Some of the complexities involved in studying as a South African exile are captured in Ntantala's book, A Life's Mosaic, in which she describes how her son was "endorsed out" of the New School for Social Research in New York, where he was enrolled for a master's degree.
She wrote of Jordan: "Then about the middle of November , he received a letter from Immigration telling him to be out of the country by the end of the month, as the purpose for which he had entered the US had been accomplished and he was prolonging his stay unnecessarily." Despite the request being unreasonable, Ntantala writes that Jordan eventually agreed to leave for England, or risk imprisonment.
Lengthy and evasive SMS exchanges
- WEDNESDAY JULY 16
Sunday Times (5.24pm): Dr Jordan. Hello, my name is Gareth van Onselen; I work as a reporter for the Sunday Times. I wonder if you would be so kind as to send me your e-mail address as I have an a query for you?
Pallo Jordan (5.31pm): Why not SMS?
ST (5.32pm): Well, it is fairly complicated and requires some space.
PJ (5.33pm): Not my fault!
ST (5.36pm): I don't think it is a question of guilt or innocence, merely logistics, but if you prefer I am happy to set it out on SMS. I shall send it through later this evening. Thank you.
ST (7.52pm): Dr Jordan, I am trying to confirm your academic qualifications. Your official GCIS CV has your title as "Dr" and says you "studied" at Wisconsin and obtained "a postgraduate degree" from the LSE. On inquiry, Wisconsin confirms you studied there but did not complete a degree. Also on inquiry, the LSE states it can "find no record" of you being awarded a PhD and the school can find "no record for Zweledinga Pallo Jordan at the LSE" for any degree or diploma. I would be most grateful if you could tell me (1) What your formal academic qualifications are (2) On what basis you use the title "Dr" (3) Whether you can help explain the LSE's response. Thank you, regards, Gareth van Onselen
PJ (9.33pm): I'm at a reception. Let me call u when I get home.
ST (9.34pm): Okay, thank you. No rush either, if you would prefer to call tomorrow morning. Either good.
- THURSDAY JULY 17
ST (11.06am): If you would prefer, my e-mail address is (blank).
PJ (11.14am): I am arriving in Jozie [Johannesburg] on Wed. I will bring with me all the documentation. U bring yours.
ST (11.21am): I presume you are overseas. No problem, I shall wait for your return next week. I am unfortunately in CT [Cape Town] but if you believe it best to meet I can arrange that. I shall, in the interim, send you via e-mail a more comprehensive outline of the query, as well as my correspondence with W-M and the LSE.
PJ (1.56pm): I shall have the relevant documentation, including letters of acceptance, testimonials from teChers [teachers], profs, etc.
ST (2.05pm): Okay, thank you. I shall send that correspondence through this afternoon, for your information.
- SATURDAY JULY 19
PJ (1.16pm): I had hoped that my selected biographer would be the one who writes up the twisted narrative of my life. But, it appears that a would be detractor will be the person to do so. My return home has been delayed by a day or two. When I get close to a PC I'll send u a prelimanary [sic] account. Relevant materials are at home so they'll have to await my return. I'll reach for scheduled appoint as soon as I land.
ST (1.19pm): Thank you. I shall await your return.
- WEDNESDAY JULY 23
ST (6.41pm): Dr Jordan, I sent you a follow up e-mail just to set out exactly what I am trying to confirm, to avoid any unnecessary locating of documents on your part. Gareth
PJ (8.02pm): Shud be back in Jozi Friday, back 2 CT on Tuesday. I don't lug my huge Apple when I travel.
PJ (9.11pm): Refer my SMS,19:7? Hold what ever u r doing, and u cud b that biographer. Bc in CT on Tues
ST (9.13pm): I shan't write anything until I have a response from you.
- MONDAY JULY 28
ST (9.38am): Dr Jordan, are you back in South Africa? If so, have you had a chance to read through the two e-mails I sent you, and could you please give me some indication as to when I can expect a response by? Thank you, Gareth
ST (4.13pm): Dr Jordan, I would be grateful if you could give me an indication as to when you will be able to reply to my query. Gareth
PJ (4.54pm): I had hoped that my chosen biographer wud b the one who collects on the Faustian bargain I made 30 years ago. U have taken that role with no invitation. So, here's the deal. U can wait for me to get home, and I give u a full biography of a key player in SA politics over the past thirty odd years. It cud rival Gevisser's Dream Deferred. Or you could go for a Profumo story [British government sex scandal of the late 1950s] that burns out in month or less. I am still en route home and haven't read your E-mail.
ST (5.03pm): That is kind of you but I am interested only in confirming the facts in this particular matter: 1. What your formal academic qualifications are. 2. On what basis you use the title "Dr", and 3. Your explanation for the LSE's response. If the context is relevant to those facts, please do provide it. But it is those facts I am trying to confirm and understand. From what you have said, I assume you will be home tomorrow, I shall follow up tomorrow evening, if that is alright. Thank you.
- TUESDAY JULY 29
ST (12.40pm): Dr Jordan, I have not yet received a response from you. I first wrote [to] you two weeks ago, on 16 July. You asked me to send the query though by SMS. You then said you would phone me. Then, you said you would return to SA on Wednesday 23 July and contact me then. You then said your return was delayed but, when near a PC, you would send me a "preliminary account". Then you said you [would] set up preliminary appointment "as soon as you land".
You then indicated you would be back on Friday 25 July and in CT on Tuesday 29 July. At least two of the queries - your formal academic qualifications and the basis on which you use the title "Dr" - require no documentation as of yet, simply the facts. I can understand the LSE query requiring more detail. I would be grateful if you could please respond soonest. Thank you, Gareth
- WEDNESDAY, JULY 30
ST (9.51am): Dr Jordan, I have, as of yet, received no substantive reply from you to my original two e-mails and SMS correspondence over the course of the last two weeks - and the queries therein. The Sunday Times intends to go to print with this story this coming Sunday. If you do not reply today, I am going to take it that your response to the three questions posed: 1. What are your formal academic qualifications? 2. On what basis you use the title "Dr"? 3. What is your response to the LSE's statement that it has no record of you at that institution and no record you having been awarded a PhD by the School?
as no comment or refused to reply, which I believe to be reasonable descriptions of your response, given the time afforded you for a reply and relative simplicity of the questions. Obviously, if you do wish to provide comment, you can reach me at my e-mail address or on my cellphone at any time today. I have also sent you an e-mail to this effect. Gareth
PJ (9.57am): Currently in London regarding your wueries [queries]. Expect correspondence from here in the next day or two responding to your queries.
ST (6.20pm): Dr Jordan, I have, as of yet, received no response or correspondence answering the queries I sent through. Gareth
- THURSDAY JULY 31
ST (8.57am): Dr Jordan, I am now on deadline. For the final time, could you please tell me: 1. What are your formal academic qualifications? 2. On what basis do you use the title "Dr'? 3. Whether you can help explain the LSE's response? Without a response, I am forced to write you were unwilling to answer those questions for a period of two weeks. Gareth
PJ (2.48pm): Tell me, does Tokyo still poem [own] Times Media? I will not take an old friend to court, but I'll take you to the cleaners, the dry cleaners plus the laundry!! So do what you wanna!!