Vice-chancellor charged over Grace Mugabe’s PhD

University of Zimbabwe Vice-chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura has been arrested for allegedly awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a doctor of philosophy degree ‘corruptly’ in 2014. Nyagura was arrested on Friday 16 February and granted bail the following day. He is to reappear in court on 5 March.

Another University of Zimbabwe lecturer Professor Claude Mararike, who supervised the former first lady’s work, is also under probe.

Mararike is alleged to have been appointed as supervisor without consultation of the sociology department’s board, with such consultation in line with the institution’s regulations.

Mugabe is alleged to have been awarded the PhD without the approval of the University of Zimbabwe senate and council.

Since 2014, there have been claims that Mugabe’s doctorate was fake, but no action was taken while her husband Robert Mugabe was in power, up until November last year when he was forced to resign as Zimbabwean president.

Mugabe resigned on the same day MPs were set to pass a vote of no confidence against him. He was replaced by his former deputy, Emmerson Mnangagwa.

Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) spokesperson Phyllis Chikundura said professors Nyagura and Mararike abused their offices in awarding the degree to Grace Mugabe.

“Prof Nyagura was arrested for abuse of office over the story of Grace Mugabe’s PhD. Prof Mararike faces arrest,” she said.

Professor Nyagura’s arrest followed an application made by the ZACC to a Harare magistrate’s court in connection with the matter. The court granted the application, giving the anti-graft watchdog the right to search and seize all documents relevant to its investigation.

The magistrate said the ZACC should have access to Grace Mugabe’s pre-registration application form, her research proposal submitted to the sociology department, minutes of the departmental board meeting assigning a supervisor to Mugabe, the academic certificates of her supervisor, minutes showing that the doctoral degree passed through the Academic Committee, and minutes of the University of Zimbabwe senate meeting recommending to the university council the conferment of the doctorate to Mugabe.

Minutes of the university council meeting recommending to the chancellor the conferment of the doctorate, copies of progress reports at the postgraduate centre, copies of contract of a research assistant and contract of a teaching assistant could also be seized by investigators, the court said.

The former first lady graduated with a doctor of philosophy degree in the faculty of social studies in September 2014. However, in January this year, 10 lecturers from the department of sociology wrote a letter to Nyagura challenging him to revoke and nullify Mugabe’s doctorate, arguing that its award was unprocedural and constituted academic corruption.

They also said the thesis was not in the university library as of 8 January 2018.

“The candidate earned the degree without the knowledge and involvement of the sociology department board, from the application, acceptance, supervision, examination, to the awarding of the degree,” they wrote.

The lecturers also said Mararike, Mugabe’s supervisor, was not a suitable candidate to act as chairperson of the sociology department board since he was on a temporary contract at the university.

“The sociology department board has never approved anything in respect of the candidate’s research or thesis. The members of the sociology department board were shocked at the news that the candidate was awarded the degree by the sociology department. All the requisite procedures were not followed in toto, and there was complete disregard of university rules, processes and procedures,” said the lecturers.

Earlier this month, Nyagura attacked lecturers in the department of sociology for challenging the awarding of the doctorate saying they were “ignorant Messrs and doctors” with no academic capacity to supervise a PhD student.

In an interview with the state-run Herald newspaper, Nyagura said PhD students were supervised by the postgraduate centre and not a teaching department. He said the ex-first lady’s thesis was deposited at the university library in 2014.