THE recent conferment of a doctorate in agriculture on President Mugabe by the Zimbabwe Open University (ZOU) must be the joke of the year.
Truly, there was a tim
e when President Mugabe deserved such an award, especially in the early 1980s when his government successfully put in place programmes which transformed the previously underutilised peasant sector into one of the most productive sectors of agriculture.
These were the years when Zimbabwe became the breadbasket of the region and the continent and everybody, including international organisations like the UN, acknowledged this by bestowing on him numerous prizes for his contribution to sustainable development and the fight against hunger and starvation.
However, at the moment, whatever reasons are given, Zimbabwe’s agriculture has ceased to be productive. For the past two to three years the country has been importing grain from countries like South Africa and India to support its hungry population.
Ironically, even President Mugabe himself in his acceptance speech acknowledged that there were too many unproductive farmers and the country has become a basket case.
To quote him verbatim: “Most of the new farmers given land by the government under its resettlement programme were ‘telephone farmers’, those for whom the farms are weekend braai resorts and the country needed to ensure that it has sufficient food stocks and to regain its lost position as the breadbasket of the region.”
How then does President Mugabe deserve a doctorate in agriculture? He has given land to the people but success in agriculture is not just measured through the amount of farms distributed. It is measured against productivity.
In my view, this was either madness or mischief on the part of both ZOU Council chairman Tafataona Mahoso, the institution’s Vice-Chancellor Primrose Kurasha and all those involved in organising this event.
If I did not know Mahoso better, I would have thought the doctorate was a birthday present meant to embarrass the president on his 81st birthday: an event meant to parade the emperor in his naked state.