The Zimbabwe National Students Union will today file a court application demanding that the University of Zimbabwe provide details about how the first lady, Grace Mugabe, came to be awarded a PhD degree.
Mrs Mugabe was awarded the doctorate in sociology by her husband – who is the chancellor of the university – at a ceremony on September 12 not long after she was endorsed to lead the governing Zanu-PF women’s wing.
Critics have called on the degree to be revoked and for the Vice-Chancellor, Levy Nyagura, to resign on ethical grounds for “fast-tracking” the awarding of the degree. The degree should have taken at least three years to complete, but there has been confusion over when Mrs Mugabe enrolled, with some sources saying it was only two months ago. Her thesis is also not in the university’s library, as it should be.
Award-winning Zimbabwean writer Chenjerai Hove, an alumnus of the University of Zimbabwe, which is ranked among the top 50 in Africa by various agencies, said the conferment of the degree on the first lady “removes the integrity of our academic standing the world over”.
In a letter to the Vice Chancellor, Mr Hove said: “I have lost the pride and prestige of being a former student of the university which you head since our academic degrees have now become a laughing stock”.
He said: “Her degree is not an honorary degree, it’s an academic degree for academic achievement. She was supposed to have a research proposal, a supervisor, and then research and write for at least three years.”
“[Grace Mugabe] should be a person of honour and say, ‘I did not study for this, please take it back, I made a mistake’.”
The university authorities have not yet commented on the controversy.