Sunday, July 7, 2013


Swaziland’s controversial Limkokwing University has awarded King Mswati III an honorary doctorate.

In return, he has granted Limkokwing land for the institution to build a permanent site in his kingdom.

At a ceremony last week Limkokwing announced the King would receive his Ph.D doctorate in ‘human capital development’ in recognition of the king’s ‘commitment to improving the lives of the Swazi people’.

The announcement was greeted by ‘rapturous applause’ that lasted ‘several minutes’, according to a report in the Weekend Observer, a newspaper in effect owned by the king himself.

Unfortunately, nobody has pointed out that Limkokwing does not award doctorates to students in the usual course of events because it is not really a university. Limkokwing, which is based in Malaysia, has set up branches in Africa in Lesotho, Botswana and Swaziland. They have all been attacked for the poor quality of their staff and the inferior courses they offer.

In Swaziland, Limkokwing offers ‘associate degrees’, a term invented to disguise the fact that they are courses inferior to a bachelor degree. Associate degrees are better known in other educational institutions as ‘diplomas’.

In June 2012, after one year of operation Bandile Mkhonta, Head of Human Resource for Limkokwing in Mbabane, told local media that of 53 professional staff at the university; only one had a Ph.D doctorate. A Ph.D is usually considered by universities to be the minimum qualification required to be given the rank of senior lecturer.

The Swazi Observer reported Mkhonta saying Limkokwing had fewer Ph.Ds because it was a ‘non-conventional’ university whose curriculum was mainly based on practice than theory. 

Limkokwing in Swaziland has no staff at professor rank and no record of conducting scholarly research.

Educational standards at Limkokwing are lower than those at other universities, including the University of Swaziland. It does not require students to have qualifications in the English language.

Despite these shortcomings, King Mswati told an audience at Limkokwing the university was providing the kind of degrees that empower Swazi youths and said he strongly believed the future of Swaziland was effectively being transformed by it.

He did not give details on exactly how this was being achieved.

Nor, did Limkokwing explain what it meant when it spoke of the king’s ‘commitment to improving the lives of the Swazi people’.

King Mswati, who has a personal wealth estimated at US$200 million, is sub-Saharan Africa’s last absolute monarch. He rules over a population of about 1.3 million people and 70 percent of his subjects live in abject poverty, earning less than US$1 per day. The kingdom has the highest rate of HIV infection in the world.

King Mswati allows no opposition to his rule and all political parties are banned. The Swazi parliament is widely considered by democrats to be a sham that only exists to follow King Mswati’s wishes.

The king has total control over national land in his kingdom and it is expected that some of this will be given to Limkokwing. No announcement of precisely where Limkokwing will move to was made.

Limkokwing has been controversial ever since it opened in Swaziland in May 2011. It struggled for many years to be allowed to open until King Mswati personally gave his blessing.

In June 2011, it emerged that the university’s founder Tan Sri Dato Lim Kok Wing had a meeting with King Mswati and ‘persuaded’ him that Swaziland needed a new university – and Limkokwing should be it. He fooled the king into believing that low level courses in such subjects as Graphic Designing, TV & Film Production, Architectural Technology, Advertising, Creative Multimedia, Information Technology, Event Management, Business Information Technology, Journalism and Media, Public Relations and Business Management, would help Swaziland – a mainly agricultural society - to prosper.  

Once the king gave his support nobody in his kingdom stood in its way. Limkokwing is in Swaziland illegally because an Act of Parliament is needed to set up a university, but Limkokwing was allowed to start without parliament’s approval.

The cash-strapped government that was seeking ways to save money on higher education at the kingdom’s established University of Swaziland offered Limkokwing US$2 million a year it did not have for scholarships for up to 800 students.

Soon after Limkokwing opened, students began protesting that they were not getting their allowances and there were no text books and too few laptops. There were at least 20 protests, class boycotts and closures during the first year after it opened. Police used teargas and rubber bullets against protesting students. One student was shot in the leg. 

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