Information showing President Robert Mugabe’s wife Grace — who was last month controversially conferred a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) qualification — finished her undergraduate degree in 2011 and had not registered for a PhD by June 2012 all but confirms she was irregularly awarded the doctorate by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) recently.
In an interview which Grace had with the state-controlled Sunday Mail in June 2012, the First Lady revealed she had enrolled to study the Chinese language (Mandarin) with the People’s (Renmin) University of China in 2007 on a four-year programme, which means she completed her degree in 2011.
She admitted that even after finishing the degree she was not proficient in Chinese.
Supposing she actually studied for her doctorate soon after the interview, it would mean that Grace completed her studies in one-and-half years given that it takes up to six months to do a proposal for a PhD.
In terms of UZ requirements, a Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) candidate requires a good master’s degree, which Grace does not have. A Master of Philosophy (MPhil) student who excels can, however, have his or her studies upgraded to a PhD. But this only happens in exceptional circumstances where the student is distinguished.
Even then, the minimum study period for a DPhil full-time student is three years — four years for part-time studies.
If Grace had registered in 2013 as a part-time student, she should have at least finished her PhD in 2017.
In the interview, Grace revealed she had been travelling to and from China on a regular basis before doing her studies locally when she learnt of the Confucius Institute at UZ.
The Chinese embassy assisted in her studies by providing professors to teach her daily.
“I enrolled at the People’s University of China. It was just the Chinese language I wanted to study because I wanted to understand the Chinese people. I have a lot of respect for them. They are hard workers and big achievers,” she said in the interview published in the Sunday Mail on June 10, 2012, after being asked if she was studying.
“I had the opportunity to visit China before it was as developed as it is today. I felt the only way to understand them was to learn their culture, traditions, history and geography, among other aspects. I appreciate the opportunity I got. I enrolled in 2007 for a four-year stint, of course.”
Grace, who spoke glowingly of the Chinese, said the decision to study Mandarin was good because everyone was looking East.
She said her husband was a visionary as he was the “first person” to speak about the Look East policy.
“Even those in the Western world who were looking down on China are now looking up to them in terms of development. I said to myself I must be well-versed with the issues that are taking place there if this is what is happening in that part of the world. I have gained a lot from interacting with the Chinese,” she said, before revealing that the Chinese friends she made while studying in the Asian country assisted in building her Mazowe orphanage.
Grace also said she would spend up to two months studying in China before she started studying locally.
“I would attend school and then come back here. But, later, I took advantage of the Confucius College (Institute) that was established here. I arranged with the Chinese Embassy and they would send some professors to teach me every day,” she said. “It was very difficult, quite exacting for me because the Chinese language is a very difficult language to learn, moreso for an adult like me; an old woman like me having to learn a language from scratch. It was not easy, but, I suppose, I have a passion for languages.”
According to information on the UZ website, the Confucius Institute was integrated into the university’s academic structures and has provided the bridge for the establishment of linkages and exchange between the UZ and Chinese universities.
The UZ has been offering Chinese Language and Cultural Studies at a Bachelor of Arts degree level since 2007.
Grace said in the interview that Mugabe believes she is fluent in Chinese although she says she is not fluent, but can communicate.
“I do not need an interpreter. I can read of course, but some of the characters I cannot identify. Unlike in Shona or English where we use an alphabet with fewer letters, each Chinese word is represented by a character,” she said.
“So, you have to know four, five, six, eight thousand characters.
They expect you to be able to identify four to five thousand characters by the time you graduate. This, I can do: writing is difficult. It requires someone with the passion for studying the language.”
Grace said she studied under a lot of pressure as she had to make the sacrifice of leaving her children and husband in Zimbabwe while studying in China. She said her orphanage was also built while she was studying, hence she had to study while also ensuring that work was done at the orphanage.
“However, I must say, it was worthwhile to study the language and mingle with the Chinese, get ideas from them,” she said.
There has been confusion on when Grace did her first degree while there were also question marks on whether she had a master’s degree. But given the short timeframe between the time she completed her first degree and the time she received her doctorate, it becomes clear her sociology PhD is practically a fraud.
It is now beyond doubt Grace was conferred the doctorate without following the required academic procedures. A number of academics on the 15-member academic committee, which awards PhDs and other degrees, have confirmed to the Independent in a series of interviews the committee never met over her controversial PhD, which makes it fraudulent and thus a nullity.