MUSIC superstar Oliver Mtukudzi and nine other prominent Zimbabweans who were recently conferred with honorary doctorate degrees by the little-known International Institute of Philanthropy (IIP) in recognition of the "contribution to humanity" could have been sold a dummy following revelations that the Harare-based institution was bogus.
Last month, the International Institute of Philanthropy awarded Mtukudzi and nine other "most influential" philanthropists with Honorary Doctorate of Human Letters (DHL) degrees for their outstanding work in helping the less privileged.
But investigations on the company's website and interviews with the institution's chief facilitator Enrico Sibanda raised a stink after the latter skirted most pertinent questions about the company's profile.
The company's website was only registered on June 17 this year, raising questions on why Zimbabweans would rush to get honorary degrees from a two-week old institution with questionable credentials.
The institution's website carries scant information about the organisation, with other sections blank, especially on the alumni.
Sibanda said the IIP, whose contact details he declined to disclose, was formed in 2000, adding that the Philanthropy Institute of Zimbabwe (PIZ), which is based in Avondale, got affiliate status in 2013. Quizzed further, he denied that PIZ was an affiliate of the IIP.
Sibanda yesterday said the institute used its own standards and systems to select people who deserved the honour, but declined to spell out the selection criteria.
He said his outfit was NOT affiliated with any university under the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education because it was not offering educational qualifications, but refused to disclose which ministry his organisation was registered with.
"We are not answerable to any university or educational institution. We are not politicians, but we are philanthropists. We are not answerable to anyone. As long as we feel as an organisation we are doing something good, we will continue to honour outstanding personalities in the field of humanitarian work. We are not planning to please everyone. Even Jesus Christ was rejected by His own tribesmen. We are not seeking praise, but we are doing our mandate that we think is right," Sibanda said.
Sibanda could not produce his institution's registration certificate. He said his organisation believed that people should not be honoured posthumously. When quizzed to explain why there were information gaps on their website, Sibanda became evasive and hostile.
"Even churches honour people. Why are you looking for the negative side only? We are simply appreciating the good work done by people," he said.
Some of the people honoured alongside Mtukudzi were Zimbabwe Revenue Authority commissioner-general Gershem Pasi, United International Family Church's Ruth Makandiwa, wife to Emmanuel Makandiwa, Isabel Chihuri wife to Police Commissioner-General Augustine Chihuri, former Zimbabwe National Roads Administration chief executive officer Frank Chitukutuku, Avenues Clinic managing director Merissa Kambani and Pastor Ruth Musarurwa of Christ Embassy.
Moonlight Funeral Assurance and Services Company chief executive Chomi Makina, an Avondale Primary School headmistress and Sibanda himself were also cited as outstanding philanthropists.
Some of the named "philanthropists" do not even have a proven record in humanitarian work, including Sibanda himself.
He claimed his company had presence in various countries, but Google research failed to identify the alleged offices outside Zimbabwe.
"It doesn't mean something started in Zimbabwe is not international. We are not a bogus organisation," he claimed.