Zimbabwean professor arrested over Grace Mugabe's dodgy PhD

17 February 2018 - 08:12
By James Thompson
Grace Mugabe
Image: REUTERS/Philimon Bulawayo Grace Mugabe

The highest-ranking official at the University of Zimbabwe‚ vice-chancellor Prof Levi Nyagura‚ was on Friday night picked up by the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) over the awarding of a PhD to former first lady Grace Mugabe.

According to the charge sheet‚ Nyagura "recommended without the approval of the university council" that the wife of ousted Zimbabwe president Robert Mugabe be awarded the degree.

ZACC spokeswoman Phyllis Chikundura said the academic would appear in court on Saturday morning at about 10am.

"He's in custody. He will have his day in court tomorrow facing abuse-of-office charges‚" she said.

The university's sociology department had in January petitioned the ZACC to look into the matter‚ which it described as suspicious.

The petition said the award was "a shock to many members of the department" and that most members had only heard of Mugabe's graduation in the media and saw pictures in the university calendar. It added that department staff had not seen Mugabe's research proposal‚ progress reports or the outcome of any research.

At the time‚ the ZACC issued a statement saying it had received a complaint but was not pursuing the matter.

Four years after the degree was awarded in 2014‚ it was not readily available on the university's website. It was uploaded only at the end of January this year. 

Nyagura claimed it had been available at the university's library all along, and warned lecturers who were “ignorant of the university's ordinances”.

When the document titled “The Changing Social Structures and Functions of the Family: The Case of Children’s Homes in Zimbabwe” was uploaded‚ some academics said it was akin to academic fraud and was not fit to stand even as an undergraduate study.

This week, the government reduced the number of security staff assigned to Mugabe and his wife, and withdrew security officers from their daughter Bona's Harare home.

Insiders said the drastic measure was taken to punish Robert Mugabe for meeting opposition leader Joice Mujuru amid suspicion that he hoped to pair his wife with Mujuru to lead an opposition movement.