Net1 UEPS Technologies has followed up reports that its chairman and CEO “bought” his doctorate, concluding that he was the victim of a degree scam.
The degree in question is the honorary PhD in Information Technology and Management conferred by Burkes University on Serge Belamant, chairman and CEO of Net1.
Following allegations on social media, two members of the board, with the cooperation of Belamant, conducted a review of the circumstances under which the honorary degree was awarded, including an examination of the email correspondence between Belamant and Burkes University and an attempt to obtain any available information about Burkes University.
“Based on this review, it appears that in early May 2003, Belamant received an email from a person who appeared to be associated with ‘Burkes University’ stating that he had been ‘short-listed by the Honorary Doctorates Committee’ for the conferment of an honorary doctorate degree,” according to a statement from the company.
“After receiving this correspondence, Belamant responded by asking for details about the selection criteria and process. He received a response that discussed criteria, which appeared to him to be relevant to the awarding of an honorary degree.
“Belamant provided the information that he was asked to submit, including proof of his memberships of professional societies, his academic records, patents he filed, his nomination for the South African chapter of the World Entrepreneur of the Year award and his work published in information security textbooks. He recalls making a donation to what he believed was a foundation associated with Burkes University.
“On 23 May 2003, the honorary degree was awarded to Belamant.”
The statement adds that attempts to obtain information about Burkes University revealed that, according to the ‘Higher Education Degree Datacheck web site, Burkes University is currently referred to as “not a valid UK degree awarding body”. In addition, there is no current web site for Burkes University.
“The board believes Belamant followed the honorary degree award process in good faith and that, at the time, Belamant did not doubt the integrity of the process or the validity of the degree. However, in light of the review, Belamant and the board have come to the conclusion that it is likely that Belamant was the unfortunate victim of a scam and that the honorary degree was not legitimate.”