Land author’s dodgy degree

The right-wing author of the bestselling book The Great South African Land Scandal — which urges resistance to land reform, branding it “an assault on South African agriculture” — holds an Internet doctoral degree from an unaccredited United States university.

In some states of the US it is a criminal offence to use degrees bestowed by Pacific Western University (PWU), author Philip du Toit’s alma mater. The state of Oregon’s official website describes the university as a “diploma mill”.

On the dust cover of his book, Pretoria-based lawyer Du Toit also falsely claims to lecture at Unisa in industrial and commercial law. Inquiries revealed he has no ties with the university.

Confronted with this, he said the claim on the dust cover was “a misprint”. He said the blurb should have read “lectured”, as he had worked as a Unisa lecturer 30 years ago.

The Mail & Guardian has established that in February this year Du Toit addressed a meeting called by the far-right American Renaissance magazine in Washington.

The magazine’s editor, Jared Taylor, believes whites are superior to blacks in “intelligence, law-abidingness, sexual restraint, academic performance, resistance to disease …”

According to American essayist Tom Wise, its annual conferences have been attended by lifelong neo-Nazis and “scholars” such as Philippe Rushton, who says blacks have smaller brains because they have larger penises, and “you can’t have everything”.

One of Du Toit’s main researchers for his book was Gaye Derby-Lewis, wife of jailed political assassin Clive Derby-Lewis and well-known for her far-right sentiments.

Du Toit has consistently denied racist motives.

The Great South African Land Scandal, published by Legacy Publications in February this year, sold 9 000 copies in double-quick time and has been particularly well received by white commercial farmers. An Afrikaans version appeared last month, and Dutch and German translations are being prepared. It has been widely reviewed in the agricultural press.

The book accuses government officials and land reform beneficiaries of large-scale corruption and incompetence, warns of famine “if this assault on agricultural stability is not stopped in its tracks” and calls on South Africans to “resist the senseless transfer of land for ideological reasons”.

Du Toit writes that the people of Zimbabwe and Namibia “sat in Africa for millennia and achieved very little except subsistence farming and fratricide. Along came the whites and created productive agricultural systems and First World structures.”

Describing a land transfer in the Letsitele Valley in Limpopo, he writes of the claimants: “Arrogance and ignorance are a lethal concoction. When people don’t know that they don’t know, the results are catastrophic.”

When reports about the status of Du Toit’s degree recently surfaced, he denied knowing PWU was unaccredited. “If this is proven to be true, there will be hell to pay,” he said.

He told Rapport newspaper the qualifications issue was “not important”. He did not care that his degree was unrecognised in South Africa, as the country’s “degrees don’t enjoy the same accreditation overseas as in the past”.

However, the following disclaimer clearly appears on the PWU’s student application form: “Pacific Western is not accredited by an accrediting agency recognised by the United States Secretary of Education.”

In addition, its name does not appear on the US Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s official database of accredited organisations.

The South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa) also does not recognise PWU degrees. Said Saqa official Francois Burger: “Pacific Western University is not accredited by any of the recognised accrediting bodies in the US. None of its deg- rees and diplomas are, therefore, accepted by Saqa for purposes of evaluation.”

A former FBI specialist witness on “diploma mills” and fake degrees, El Cerrito-based John Bear, told the M&G the public use of a Pacific Western degree would be a crime in US states such as Oregon, Illinois and New Jersey, exposing the user to a large fine and up to six months in prison.

Bear surveyed university registrars in 2000, asking them if they “always, usually, sometimes, rarely or never accepted certain degrees”.

“The percentage that would usually or always accept Pacific Western degrees was ‘rarely’,” he said.

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