Robert Mugabe’s wife to build a university in his name

Zimbabwe’s first lady Grace Mugabe is planning to build Robert Mugabe University in honour of her husband, who is one of the world’s most educated presidents.

She has a foundation that has already built an orphanage, a primary school and a secondary school in the Mazowe district of Mashonaland Central province in northern Zimbabwe, where the university will be located.

There are plans to build a skills training centre, a hospital and Robert Mugabe University in the 50,000 square metres of land Grace Mugabe acquired during the country’s controversial land reform.

The source of funding for construction of the university has not been revealed, but the Chinese – who in recent years have been favoured with lucrative mining and power deals by Mugabe’s isolated regime – helped her with construction of the orphanage and schools.

As a way to show gratitude for the help, Chinese is taught at the first lady’s schools.

Mashonaland Central Minister Martin Dinha said the first lady had applied for land just like any other citizen to undertake her projects, including construction of the university, and it was granted. “Everything was above board. That land was applied for,” he said.

The property where the first lady is building her empire is an expansive area seized from a company called Interfresh’s Mazoe Citrus Estate. There have been articles claiming that she occupied parts of the farm, displacing resettled black farmers.

Grace Mugabe first spoke in July about why she intended to build a university. “I want to build a Robert Mugabe University because we want continuity and responsibility,” she said.

“I’ve a good rapport with people who I can sweet talk for resources.

“I had a paradigm shift and zeroed in on education because Zimbabweans are obsessed with it.”

Zimbabwe has among the highest literacy rates in Africa, largely thanks to Robert Mugabe’s vision and policies, in the years before he became dictatorial.

Mugabe, who has ruled Zimbabwe for 36 years, has seven degrees. The first was from South Africa’s University of Fort Hare, where he obtained a bachelor of arts. His other degrees were obtained by distance learning – two of them during his 11 years as a political prisoner – in administration, education, science and law.

He was also awarded 18 honorary degrees by universities around the world. But some were revoked in the new millennium when, facing political opposition for the first time, Mugabe began violating his people’s human rights.

When the trustees of the University of Massachusetts put in motion plans to strip him of an honorary degree, Mugabe’s spokesperson George Charamba said the aging leader would not lose any sleep and in any case had plenty of degrees, earned by him or bestowed upon him.

“If anything, Western universities improved their international profile by associating with the president,” Charamba said at the time, adding that Mugabe had honorary degrees from Africa, Asia, Europe and America.