Student union takes Mugabe to court

Zimbabwe students union takes President Robert Mugabe to court over the awarding of a controversial doctorate of philosophy degree to Grace Mugabe. (Reuters)

Zimbabwe students union takes President Robert Mugabe to court over the awarding of a controversial doctorate of philosophy degree to Grace Mugabe. (Reuters)

The Zimbabwe National Students Union (Zinasu) said they also want clarification on the doctorate awarded to Vice-President Joice Mujuru, who graduated on the same day as Grace, with a Doctor of Philosophy degree in the Faculty of Commerce. Mujuru’s thesis though, is on the University of Zimbabwe’s (UZ) website unlike Mugabe’s.

Zinasu’s president Gilbert Mutubuki said the union had engaged the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights to assist them in their bid for Mugabe and UZ administration to justify the awarding of the doctorates. He said students and other interested parties had failed to get an explanation from the institution.

President Robert Mugabe, who capped both his wife and Mujuru, will be cited in his capacity as the chancellor of the university while UZ’s vice chancellor, who oversees the day to day running of the institution, will also be cited.

Mutubuki said the students expect to file their application in the High Court on Wednesday.

“We have decided to take the University of Zimbabwe to court and we will cite both the chancellor and the vice chancellor. We are working with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and our aim is to file our papers on Wednesday,” said Mutubuki shortly after a meeting with the lawyers. 

“As students we believe we have the locus standi to file such an application. We want to protect the image and reputation of the University of Zimbabwe hence our action. “We believe politicians should not abuse the University of Zimbabwe or its staff to fight their factional wars. 

“We understand that both the Vice President [Mujuru] and the President’s wife have very high political ambitions, but they should not use the UZ to achieve their goals.”

Mujuru is believed to be leading a faction that is angling to control Zanu PF in the post-Mugabe era, while Grace recently entered mainstream politics and is also seeking a high office. Mutubuki said the union was lobbying parliamentarians to raise a motion and also investigate how the doctorates were awarded.

“We are doing this because this matter is bigger than students. It’s a national issue which has consequences for the entire education sector. This is why we are taking a stand,” he said.

Last week Zinasu wrote a letter to the Speaker of Parliament Jacob Mudenda asking for the parliamentary portfolio committee on higher and tertiary education to investigate circumstances under which Grace was awarded her doctorate. The letter was copied to Nyagura and the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education Dr Olivia Muchena.

Mutubuki said he was being intimidated for challenging those in authority to justify the awarding of Grace’s PHD, but said he would soldier on.

“I have received numerous calls from private numbers and some people claiming to be from Team Mai Mugabe. They are threatening me and warning me to stop talking about this issue. Some of them actually came to my home on Saturday but I was not there, but this intimidation will not stop us. Actually it motivates us because we want to see justice prevailing,” he said. 

“I have also been warned that I risk being expelled from the university, but I will fight on because I have done nothing wrong.”

Mutubuki said Zimbabweans should not stop debating the issue and demanding answers, adding that the student body was organising a public meeting this week where the matter will be discussed. He said respected academics would be invited to give their opinions and participate in the debate.

Despite pressure from ordinary Zimbabweans, students, alumni and academics that UZ publish Mugabe’s thesis and reveal her registration details and the names of her supervisors, the institution has remained tight-lipped. 

The university’s public relations department promised to issue a statement a fortnight ago but had not done so. It is known that Mujuru received her undergraduate degree from the Women’s University in Africa as well as a master’s in Strategic Management. 

She also graduated with a master’s degree in Entrepreneurial Development from Chinhoyi University of Technology. Mutubuki, however, said they were keen to establish when she started her studies with UZ although her thesis is on the institution’s website.

Grace Mugabe ‘poor student’
Grace on the other hand has previously made headlines for being a poor student. In 1998, local media reported that she failed all three subjects she was tested for at the University of London where she was studying for a bachelor of arts degree in English. She was eventually deregistered by the university after failing most of her examinations. 

She failed explorations in literature I (9%), explorations in literature II (18%), and renaissance comedy: Shakespeare and Jonson (17%). The following year she repeated the three subjects, but again failed explorations in literature I (31%), renaissance comedy: Shakespeare and Jonson (29%). She, however, improved in explorations in literature II, gaining 42%. In the same year she attempted an additional subject, approaches to text, but failed, scoring only 7%.



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