Publication: Sunday Independent Issued: Date: 2008-03-02 Reporter: Jeremy Gordin

No 'Anti-Shaik Agenda' at KZN but Chippy Loses Degree



Sunday Independent




Jeremy Gordin

Web Link

Professor Malegapuru Makgoba has said that no "anti-Shaik agenda" existed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal and that the decision to strip Shamim "Chippy" Shaik of his doctorate had been reached fairly.

Makgoba, the vice chancellor and principal of the university, was reacting yesterday to allegations made by Chippy and Yunis Shaik, his brother, that the decision by the university senate to withdraw Chippy's doctoral degree, awarded in 2003, had been reached in a "grossly irregular manner". Yunis is acting as Chippy's attorney.

Chippy returned to his Durban home late on Friday night from Mozambique to be told by Yunis that Edith Mneney, the university registrar, had sent Yunis the reasons for the senate's decision, made on Wednesday, and that Makgoba had released an official communiqué, confirming the "withdrawal" of the degree, late on Friday.

Makgoba said the senate had accepted the conclusions of the Agriculture, Engineering and Science Affairs Board (AAB) that Chippy had "committed plagiarism" in chapters two and four of his thesis and that chapter three appeared not to be Shaik's "own unaided work".

Chippy said he was deeply disappointed by the decision because he had not plagiarised anything.

The allegations against Chippy, who in the late 1990s was the chief of procurement for the department of defence and therefore played a major role in the multibillion-rand arms deal, surfaced in May last year, resulting in a Sunday Times article, headlined "Dr Chippy Fake", and in a university investigation.

Chippy wrote in his January reply to the university that the allegations had been made *1 and copied to the media *2 by Richard Young of C2I2, a company that had lost a bid or bids for arms deal contracts to other local and international companies *3.

"The timing of the [newspaper] exposé [precipitated by Young]," his reply continued, "occurred on the eve of the hearing of my (sic) petition by my brother, Schabir Shaik, in the constitutional court. The exposé was calculated to inflict maximum damage and to shape public opinion *4."

Schabir Shaik is the Durban businessman and former financial advisor of Jacob Zuma who was jailed for 15 years in June 2005 for corruption and fraud and whose conviction resulted in the sacking of Zuma as deputy president by President Thabo Mbeki, also in June 2005.

"I'm torn apart by this decision of the senate," said Chippy yesterday, "because it appears that the decision was taken on the basis of the Higher Degrees Committee's decision that I plagiarised material from a book written in Russian, or Ukrainian actually *5, in 1987 by two of my examiners, Professors VG Piskunov and V Verijenko. But that book is clearly listed in my bibliography, and was obviously a main source of my work.

"Second, in the questions the university sent to me about my thesis, I was never asked specifically about that book. A general question was put to me about how I referred in my thesis to works written in a foreign language and what foreign-language material I had used.

"I replied that I used certain works because they were classics in the field and that I had not copied anything from any Russian or Ukrainian works because there was nothing available in them about my specific field, anisotropic higher order theories.

"But I am assuming of course," he said, "that we are all talking about the same book. We may not be, you see. I have no idea. The real point is that the text from which the university is apparently claiming that I copied has never been shown to me and I have never been told about it. In fact, a Professor A Groenwold, one of the authorities who assessed my thesis for the university, admitted that he had not then been able to find the text."

Makgoba said yesterday that the case against Chippy had hinged on a particular book *6, written in 1987 "in Russian" by Piskunov "and others" and that the university had struggled for a long time to find it, but finally did.

"It was not necessary for us to show it to Shaik and discuss it with him," said Makgoba.

"This was an academic inquiry, not a court of law. In any case, written questions were put to him, and he replied - but his replies were not satisfactory.

"There is no anti-Shaik agenda at work at the university. In fact the matter was delayed for a long time while he pondered his replies, and we allowed this. We were fair - and we had also to be fair to those who complained - and now it is over."

Yunis Shaik, who has given all the documents and correspondence related to the matter to journalists *7, said that if the university council could not be prevailed upon to see that the inquiry had been flawed, he would probably go to court. He said that the senate's decision and the manner in which the inquiry had been conducted were a "travesty".

Not only had Chippy not seen or discussed the "mysterious book", he had not been allowed to defend his thesis in person but only to answer written questions.

Yunis said that it was remarkable that all of Chippy's internal and external examiners, all world-renowned experts in the field, have continued to say that the thesis was the original work of Shamim Shaik and that nobody has claimed that he had copied their work.

In addition, said Yunis, no real evidence was ever produced *8 - "except now this book that no one has ever seen" - to support the claims of plagiarism.

All that was available for consideration were two assessments on Chippy's dissertation by a Professor Eduard Eitelberg and by Groenwold.

With acknowledgements to Jeremy Gordin and Sunday Independent.

*1       Indeed they were.

The allegations were made by me of the basis of clear indications of rote copying of journal papers where the candidate was not an author into the thesis.

The candidate passed off the detail content of the thesis and worse, the main academic claims of the thesis, as his own.

This is called plagiarism.

There were many, many other indications of plagiarism such as changes of style, spelling, grammar and spelling errors.

*2      To the Sunday Times, to whom I turned after 3 years of own private investigation, for assistance and collaboration because this was an elephant that needed joint digestion, of which others had proven not to be capable.

*3      Certainly a fact, but certainly not a factor.

*4      Certainly neither a fact nor a factor.

*It just so happened that the matter was broached by me with the Sunday Times Investigative Team (among other matters) at a time of mutual convenience which just happened to be March 2007.

*5      My conclusions at the time :
My initial reading formed a preliminary conclusion that the thesis was very poor in presentation, that it seemed to be the concatenation of several journal papers and not the own unaided work of the candidate. I also noticed the lack of References, the many journal papers in the Bibliography on the same subject by his own supervisor and the fact that quite a number of the papers were by Russian and Ukrainian authors and even in their original languages.
But I was 200 km from Cape Town without easy access to a University library and a rather slow and expensive connection to the Internet.

*6      Piskunov, V.G., Verijenko, V.E., Prisyazhnyouk, V.K., 1987. Calculation of Inhomogeneous Shells and Plates Using Finite Element Methods. Veisha Shkola, Kiev, 200p.

        But it is a stretch to say that the case hinged on one particular book.

There were multiple instance of plagiarism, including a primary instance of the plagiarism of the work of Piskunov. This was clear from the journal papers where Piskunov was the primary author.

The final nail in the coffin was proving that the book actually spawned these journal papers.

But this merely proved that the "work" by the candidate was indeed just a wordprocessing job.

But plagiarism of Chapter 2 was already adequately proven by me in respect of the copying of the content of journal papers by Piskunov et al.

Indeed the direct copying in Chapter 2 came of the journal paper :
Rational transverse shear deformation higher-order theory of anisotropic laminated plates and shells
V. G. Piskunov *a, V. E. Verijenko *b, S. Adali *b, P. Y. Tabakov *c, V. K. Prisyazhnyouk *a and S. G. Buryhin *b
*a Ukrainian Transport University, Suvorova Street No. 1, Kiev 01010, Ukraine
*b Department of Mechanical Engineering, University of Natal, Durban 4001, South Africa
*c Department of Mechanical Engineering, CADENCE, Technikon Natal, P.O. Box 953, Durban 4000, South Africa
Received 1 May 2000. Available online 31 July 2001.
This journal paper is clearly an updated summary of the original work with possible contributions by Professor Sarp Adali and S.G. Buryhin of the University of Natal and Dr Pavel Tabakov of Technikon Natal.

Professor Viktor Verijenko of the Ukraine was responsible for bringing Pavel Tabakov to South Africa and possibly then one or both of them bringing out S.G. Buryhin.

Logically, it would have been far easier to copy the journal paper which was available both in the English language, online and in digital format, than copy the book which was available only in the Ukranian language, in paper format and where only two copies were available (one of which it seems was stolen out of the University of Ukraine Library.

*7      I think that it would be more correct to say that Yunis Shaik has given all the documents and correspondence related to the matter to a journalist, being Jeremy Gordin, or a small journalists, being Jeremy Gordin, Greg Arde and Bronwyn Gerritson.

Watch this space.

*8      Real evidence was produced by the proverbial mountain load.

Now let's look forward to a application for review of an "administrative" decision.

Until then, it is over.