Mugabe PhD case – University head to stand trial

A Harare court has ruled that University of Zimbabwe Vice-chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura has a case to answer for allegedly awarding former first lady Grace Mugabe a doctor of philosophy degree ‘corruptly’ in 2014, hence he must stand trial.

The ruling comes at a time when the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development has lodged a complaint with the Attorney General, saying it has nothing to do with the case as it believes that it is a purely academic matter that must be dealt with by the university senate or council.

Nyagura, who was arrested on 16 February, challenged his placement on remand but in her ruling, Harare magistrate Ms Tilda Mazhande ruled Nyagura has a case to answer and must remain on remand pending trial.

In a related matter, another magistrate has issued a fresh warrant for the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) to search and seize all documents from the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) relevant to its investigation into the awarding of the degree to Mugabe.

Harare Provincial Magistrate Mr Elisha Singano issued the first warrant on 12 February, but the High Court stopped its execution four days later saying it was not properly obtained.
ZACC successfully applied for a fresh warrant.

Singano directed the University of Zimbabwe’s registrar or any other senior official at the institution to provide a set of relevant documents, records and articles to the investigators.

The documents include: Mugabe’s preregistration application form, her research proposal submitted to the department of sociology, minutes of the departmental board meeting where a supervisor was assigned, academic certificates of the supervisor, minutes showing that the doctoral degree passed through the academic committee, and minutes of the UZ senate recommending to the university council the conferment of the doctorate.

Singano also directed the university to allow ZACC access to minutes of the university council meeting at which it was recommended to the university chancellor that the doctorate be conferred, as well as copies of progress reports at the Postgraduate Centre.

The permanent secretary of the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology is cited as being the complainant in the court case that is being pursued by the ZACC. However, the state-run newspaper The Herald has reported that the ministry has said it has nothing to do with the court case as it believes the matter is purely academic.

According to The Herald, in a letter dated 28 February addressed to the chief government legal advisor Attorney General Advocate Paul Machaya, the ministry lodged a complaint against the ZACC saying that it had cited the wrong person as the complainant and the court papers were defective.

“The ministry would want to bring it to your attention as the chief government legal advisor that the ministry is not involved in academic issues. The issue is purely academic, which is the domain of the university through the council or senate,” read part of the letter.

The ministry further indicated that it was not qualified to comment or to decide or give an opinion on whether what Nyagura did was a criminal offence.