Varsity cannot grant degree to deregistered Mohuba, says judge

Johannesburg- Former University of Limpopo spokesperson Kgalema Mohuba has lost his court bid to compel the institution to confer him with the degree of doctor of Commerce (DCom).

Mohuba, who is currently a SABC and Prasa board member, was accepted to register for the DCom in 2016 while he was still in the employ of the university as its director for communication.

However, he was suspended and later deregistered as a student in 2018 after allegations that he had hired two Zimbabweans to write his PhD thesis and paid for their flight tickets. He was fired from his job a year later.

In his court papers, Mohuba has contended that he had since complied with all requirements to be conferred with the degree. However, the university argued that it was prohibited from awarding the doctorate degree until the decision to terminate his registration had been set aside.

Acting Judge in the Polokwane High Court, LGP Ledwaba, ruled that directing the University of Limpopo to confer the degree on Mohuba would be directing it to commit illegality.

“The effect of the plaintiff’s deregistration as the defendant’s student is that he is no longer its student. I do not understand the plaintiff’s position to be in dispute with this statement. He has applied without success for his re-registration. Even if he had decided to follow the PAJA [Promotion of Administrative Justice Act] route to have the defendant directed to confer the degree on him, that would not be granted in the face of his deregistration as the defendant’s student,” the judgment reads.

“The fact that the relationship between the plaintiff and the defendant has been terminated, whether rightly or wrongly, cannot be ignored where the defendant is to be directed to confer the degree on the plaintiff. The granting of prayer for specific performance is discretionary … it should not be granted where it will result in illegality,”

Mohuba’s attorney, Ranoto Makgoka said they will be appealing the decision.

“The argument in court was not about the awarding of the degree but what the University instituted as a special plea. The judgment does not deal with the merits of the case but with the technical objection which was raised by the University,” he said.

“The illegality referred to is in the Court’s finding that, without reviewing and setting aside the decision of the University to terminate Mr Mohuba ‘s registration, it would not be competent of the Court to compel the University to honor its contractual obligations to Mr Mohuba as he was no longer a student.”

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