Sipho Mabena

By Sipho Mabena

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‘Plagiarist’ professor says author copied from him first, and ‘in Africa one can’t steal ideas’

'Unisa' professor claims he was doing the original author a favour by 'sharing' essay on Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism.


A university professor and dean of faculty has defended plagiarising an essay he picked up on Facebook and passing it off as his own original work. President of Azanian People's Organisation (Azapo) Nelvis Qekema claims Dr Edward Yusuf Mitole, who purports to be a professor of Development Studies at the University of SA (Unisa), plagiarised his essay on Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism. According to his Curriculum Vitae, Mitole, who claims to be a Malawian national, is attached to the Unisa’s Institute Of African Renaissance and was once former President Jacob Zuma’s political advisor on radical economic transformation and expropriation…

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A university professor and dean of faculty has defended plagiarising an essay he picked up on Facebook and passing it off as his own original work.

President of Azanian People’s Organisation (Azapo) Nelvis Qekema claims Dr Edward Yusuf Mitole, who purports to be a professor of Development Studies at the University of SA (Unisa), plagiarised his essay on Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism.

According to his Curriculum Vitae, Mitole, who claims to be a Malawian national, is attached to the Unisa’s Institute Of African Renaissance and was once former President Jacob Zuma’s political advisor on radical economic transformation and expropriation of land without compensation.

Plagiarism scandal

Qekema has publicly accused the academic, without mentioning Mitole by name, of lifting his essay on Black Consciousness and Pan Africanism, word by word and passing it off as his own work.

The politician decried the intellectual theft in a Facebook post and told Radio 702 that he was seeking advice on how to proceed.

During the interview, Qekema claimed “a professor and dean of faculty of a Pretoria-based university” stole his essay titled Pan Africanism and Black Consciousness: Solidarity and Synergies for Liberation.

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“We expect our professors to give to us, and never stole (sic) from us. And I now have to spend a good deal of time fighting with the professor, instead of us working together on relevant political matters. Anyway, the fight is on. And I will do anything necessary to defend my integrity,” he complained.

Qekema said the essay was published on the Azapo website and on Facebook on 30 May 2014, but that the essay was published on Modern Ghana’s website on 22 December 2022 under Mitole’s name.

Cut and paste

Qekema said Mitole is his friend on Facebook and this is how he accessed the essay.

He further said that the professor had also previously approached him to collaborate on African renaissance movement programmes, but this never materialised.

“He cut and paste my essay, word-for-word, punctuation-for-punctuation, including my picture… the only thing that he did was to remove my name and put his,” he said.

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He said he was dumbstruck when his party’s media monitoring unit alerted him to the theft, asking what is it that the professor was teaching his students when he was the one plagiarising other people’s work.

“Once anybody steals your work, then there is a dilemma about the authorship of that work. That means my integrity is at stake. Many people might just think I had stolen the work from the professor. Remember he has more credentials than me academically speaking,” he bemoaned.

‘It’s not plagiarism, it’s just sharing of ideas’

Mitole did not deny Qekema’s plagiarism accusations, saying it was indeed true that he “shared” the essay with his readership in Africa and that it was republished in The Modern Ghana, a leading Pan African publication on the continent.

“What is not true is that the essay is a scholarly article. It is not. Maybe just an opinion piece. I can grant him that. But not a scholarly article. The publication in question is a Pan African publication and is not legally mandated to publish scholarly articles. Only opinion pieces,” he said.

What was also not true, Mitole protested, was that he sought to gain financially by “sharing” the article as the publication did not pay for published content.

He suggested that he was doing Qekema a favour by spreading the liberating truth contained in the essay with the larger African audience as the Azapo president was only confined to South Africa.

Mitole charged that what was worrying to him was the hypocrisy, as Qekema had not even made an effort to acknowledge the sources of the ideas shared in that essay.

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He charged that most of the content has just been extracted from the work of eminent African scholars, including himself, thereby violating all the rules of referencing.

“Some of the content appears to come from interviews I previously gave on SABC News and eNCA. The brother is not honest enough to admit that he is guilty of the same crime he has accused me of,” Mitole said.

He said what was also not true is that he stole Qekema’s work, because in Africa one could not steal ideas as “our knowledge belongs to us collectively as a people. It cannot be credited to any one individual. This is our ancestral knowledge and wisdom”

The Unisa is yet to respond to request for comment.

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