Independent Media columnist and author Eusebius McKaiser has rejected claims that the public were deliberately misled - in the past - about the nature of his academic qualifications. This is in response to questions raised on social media following his epic Twitter rampage against Helen Zille on Wednesday. This was triggered by the DA leader asking "Did @Eusebius doctor his degree??" in reaction to David Bullard's comment on Twitter that McKaiser had a "wildly inaccurate CV. Oxford degree.....yeah right?"
As reported earlier SANDU's Tim Flack noted on Twitter, and then in a News24 article, that McKaiser's biography on the PanMacmillan website had stated that "He holds law and philosophy degrees from Rhodes and Oxford universities." PanMacmillan were co-publishers in 2012 - along with Louise Grantham's Bookstorm - of McKaiser's first book "A Bantu in my bathroom." McKaiser's second book, "Can I vote DA?", was published (in English) by Bookstorm alone. On Thursday, this page was pulled from the PanMacmillan website.
McKaiser entered Oxford University on a Rhodes scholarship in the 2003/2004 academic year. According to his account on Twitter on Wednesday he was initially registered for a BPhil in Philosophy (a degree preparatory to a doctorate) but was able to convert to the DPhil proper. His initial press writings described him as a "Rhodes scholar and a PhD Philosophy candidate at Oxford University" (Dec 2005), a "Rhodes scholar at Oxford University" (July 2006) and a "Doctoral Philosophy Candidate, Oxford University, and freelance commentator" (Oct 2007).
In early 2011 McKaiser told Grocott's Mail that he was still working on his DPhil. A profile in the newspaper quoted him as saying: "I also did philosophy research at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship. I will continue to work on my doctorate this year. My Ph.D focuses on the question, ‘Are people morally responsible for their beliefs?'"
In late 2012 McKaiser's first book "A Bantu in my Bathroom" was released. Some of the publicity material for the book did incorrectly state that McKaiser held "law and philosophy degrees from Rhodes and Oxford universities." This claim was also appended to extracts from the book that were published in various newspapers at the time. The biography on the PanMacmillan website dates from this period.
In a long posting on his widely-read Facebook page on Thursday McKaiser stated that he is "TRULY not scared of the DA's attempt to discredit me academically" as his achievements speak for themselves. One reason for posting his CV on Twitter on Wednesday, he wrote, was that he wanted to rehearse "the fact that I am not shy about my excellent achievements so far. White arrogance won't change that, and sometimes as blacks we are too shy to own our brilliance. When whites do, they are just stating facts or projecting confidence. When we do, we are either arrogant or - ironically - deemed insecure."
On the issue of his incomplete DPhil McKaiser stated:
"For the last darn time, no I did not complete my PhD, and no I won't, even with the playful annual encouragement of friends like Lucy Allais who could have supervised it to completion here. But it just isn't important to me. And I decide what matters to me. I love my multiple careers way too much to be a full-time student again or full-time lecturer, even though I enjoy teaching. I got the Rhodes Scholarship to Oxford, studied towards the Dphil, and then dropped out, an honour I share with another South African (who owns his own story), and a one time US president The crucial thing is that I never claimed otherwise, and to test my sanity, earlier my publisher Louise Grantham confirmed my email correspondence to her a year or two back INSISTING we should not say anything false on the cover of my books. And we did not. And she confirmed it."
He added that:
"In fact, my friend and mentor Justice Cameron had to PERSUADE me to be comfortable with even the following sentence publicly, 'Eusebius studied at Oxford University on a Rhodes Scholarship' because I told him a) some might think even that is an attempt to say I got the doctorate and b) (as has now happened courtesy Helen Zille) because of my public profile it is best to tactically not give any ad hominem ammunition to critics who cannot engage my ARGUMENT. But, he persuaded me that that was self-deprecation in overdrive, and that I am thereby denying the accolade of having been awarded the scholarship and having worked under Ralph Wedgwood and John Broome at Oxford before I decided to not continue (for reasons partly covered in my next book I am working on.)"
On the issue of the inaccurate biographical note that appeared on the PanMacmillan website McKaiser stated:
"PanMacmillan had to be reminded by Louise of this fact, because they assumed I graduated from Oxford, or someone manning their website did (I discovered courtesy James Myburgh gleefully finding and posting it on his site) which is a mistake on their part on their website I forgive them for, since they reasonably probably assumed - I don't know; not spoken to them - that with my nerdhishness, and academic history, I surely must have! (Many of you thought so too no doubt). What is CRYSTAL CLEAR, despite trolling on Twitter, is that you will find not a SINGLE audio, or email from me to clients or conference organisers, where I claimed ever to have a PhD. And, as Redi pointed out, I am on record in interviews correcting people, including her! I most recently did that on 3Talk with Noeleen, in fact, when we, funny enough, discussed Ms Mohau Pheko."
"And, on a point of academic arrogance, to be blunt: The very reason I never WOULD claim to have a doctorate is because it is not a requirement of academic or intellectual prowess! I can give you countless examples of folks with PhDs, including in my field of philosophy, that I frankly do not admire academcally. Equally, I have had lecturers with MA degrees who are enormously gifted academics and teachers. (And, yes, I then also have nerdish friends like a Dr Chris McConnachie who has it all- straight firsts throughout university, and flawless Oxford theses to boot, and just brilliant full-stop!)"
"So those are the facts. And I reject with contempt any hint to the contrary. My work, including my three degrees all of them with distinction, speak for itself, and I will continue to skewer power, including critiquing and observing the DA, and Helen Zille, without fear or favour as I do other sources of power in society."
In a reaction to this post Karima Brown, Chief Content Officer at Independent Media, commented:
" Long gone are the days where we explain ourselves to White politicians. Especially ones that tries to undermine and underplay the disastrous impact of racism, whiteness and its attendant entitlement. You stand on the shoulders of giants and you inspire so many young and old to live authentically and with purpose. Helen Zille is a bully who has an overdeveloped Madam complex. She has yet to answer to the substantive issues raised by the widest range of people on her crude attempt to use political power to determine the reading choices of the Western Cape government. As you said elsewhere. Whiteness and its hegemony stops right here and right now. We ain't taking this shit no more!!"
Mail & Guardian contributor Verashni Pillay also remarked:
"I'm sharing this with every member of the Zille-mob who tweeted me during the whole sorry saga saying: "but he did lie about his degree." #facepalm"
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