CONTROVERSY surrounding former first lady Grace Mugabe’s attainment of a doctorate at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) deepened yesterday after the institution finally published her thesis, almost four years after graduation.
By Wongai Zhangazha
The 226-page thesis, titled The Changing Social Structures and Functions of the Family: The Case of Children’s Homes in Zimbabwe, was published on the UZ website under her maiden name Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu. Grace married Mugabe in 1996.
The online publication of Grace’s research follows a petition by Sociology Department academic staff, as first reported by the Zimbabwe Independent early this month. The lecturers described the awarding of the doctorate as “scandalous”, saying it violated procedures and established policies of the country’s oldest university. The Sociology Department, in a petition delivered to the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc), said Grace’s degree did not go through processes that other candidates are subjected to, thus describing it as “very suspicious”.
However, in a curious reversal, Zacc said it was no longer investigating Grace’s degree amid indications of deep divisions among commissioners over the issue. The long period it took the university to publish the thesis on its website has raised eyebrows, with questions of impropriety swirling around.
Grace, who was supervised by UZ lecturer Claude Mararike, graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Social Studies in September 2014. She was among 3 274 graduands who were capped by her husband and former president Robert Mugabe, the then chancellor of the UZ.
The UZ Sociology Department in its petition proposed the immediate revocation, nullification and withdrawal of Grace’s doctorate, and that full investigations be instituted by the authorities to probe the alleged abuse of office, corruption and other maladministration that could tarnish the university’s standing, “as this seems only a tip of the iceberg”.
However, in an interview with this newspaper on the sidelines of a recent meeting in Harare between President Emmerson Mnangagwa and heads of universities, UZ vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura refused to be drawn into discussing Grace’s controversial degree and the Sociology Department’s petition to Zacc.
“As far as I am concerned there is no corruption at the University of Zimbabwe. I cannot comment on a document (petition) that I have not seen. Why don’t you ask me what we are here for, about UZ innovative projects?” Nyagura said.
Lecturers in the the Sociology Department said they were shocked when they saw Grace among the graduating doctoral candidates.
“This was a shock to many members of the department as most members never (saw) or heard about the proposal, progress reports, thesis examiners and outcome of such a study by the candidate. In fact, many of the departmental board members heard about the graduation in the media and saw the pictures on the university calendar the following year,” the petition reads.
“In addition, at least the two chairpersons who were incumbents of office during the time when the candidate should have registered and worked on the PhD also ‘know nothing about it’. There is evidence that the Departmental Government Ordinances 1994 (Ordinance No. 43), Faculty Ordinance (Ordinance No. 44), approved policies and procedures for such a qualification, were violated. The awarding of the degree has therefore not gone through processes that other candidates are subjected to which makes the awarding of the degree very suspicious.”
The petition listed 12 procedures that Grace should have gone through before admission to study for a doctorate at the UZ.
The petition stated that the awarding of Grace’s doctorate was a complete disregard of the department and a violation of approved operational policies and procedures of the university.