The Zimbabwe National Students Union has demanded the withdrawal of a PhD awarded last month to the wife of President Robert Mugabe, arguing that it is not credible. First lady Grace Mugabe stands accused of having registered at the University of Zimbabwe in July this year and completing her PhD thesis last month, in a record two months.
Robert Mugabe is chancellor of the university, and awarded the doctorate in sociology to his wife at a graduation ceremony on 12 September.
Grace Mugabe had not obtained a masters degree. Recently she took over leadership of the women’s wing of her husband’s ruling ZANU-PF party, leading to speculation that she may have her eye on her 90-year-old husband’s job.
The controversy over the PhD degree is refusing to die down.
The BBC reported that the Zimbabwe National Students Union, or ZINASU, was planning to file a court application asking for details on how the first lady was awarded the degree. The students said her PhD thesis was not available in the university library, as it should be.
Students said awarding the qualification negatively affected the reputation of the country’s top higher education institution, locally and internationally. It was an insult to students, the intelligentsia, doctors, professors and lecturers associated with the University of Zimbabwe.
“Grace Mugabe’s miracle doctorate signified syncretically the death and burial of academic principles at the once highly regarded university,” said ZINASU.
The union said politically motivated suspensions and expulsions of students, archaic service delivery systems, hyper-expensive fees and the perversion of academic freedoms, along with Grace Mugabe’s “miraculous doctorate”, fulfilled a prediction by the university’s late vice-chancellor Walter Joseph Kamba that academic standards would be devastated by political meddling.
Graduates from the university would be stereotyped according to Grace Mugabe’s academic stamina, ZINASU said, which was the worst thing that could happen to students who had worked hard and honestly to acquire a degree from the institution.
They called on all those involved in awarding the PhD, including the vice-chancellor, Levi Nyagura, to resign with immediate effect.
Zimbabwean academic Ricky Mukonza agreed that the first lady’s PhD was not good for the University of Zimbabwe or the Mugabe family. It tarnished the university’s image and eroded the idea of an institution driven by the pursuit for academic excellence.