Africa

Call for Zimbabwe's Grace Mugabe to return PhD

Robert and Grace Mugabe Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Grace Mugabe has been been endorsed to lead the women's wing of the ruling party

Award-winning Zimbabwean writer Chenjerai Hove has called on Grace Mugabe, the wife of Zimbabwe's leader Robert Mugabe, to hand back her PhD.

She was awarded a doctorate from the University of Zimbabwe last month.

But there has been confusion over when she enrolled, with some sources saying it was only two months ago - and students want the issue investigated.

The university authorities have not yet commented on the controversy.

"It [the award] removes the integrity of our academic standing the world over," Mr Hove told BBC Focus on Africa.

A graduate and faculty member of the University of Zimbabwe, the novelist and poet, who is living in Norway, said he had written to the vice-chancellor to demand an explanation.

"I have lost the pride and prestige of being a former student of the university which you head since our academic degrees have now become a laughing stock," he says in the letter.

His remarks come as the Zimbabwe National Students Union prepares to file a court application on Thursday demanding that the University of Zimbabwe provide details about how the first lady came to be awarded the degree.

Amongst the concerns expressed by students is the fact that the first lady's thesis is not available in the university's library, as would be usual.

The rise of Grace Mugabe

Image copyright Reuters
  • Began affair with Robert Mugabe, 41 years her senior, while his first wife Sally was terminally ill
  • Mr Mugabe later said Sally knew and approved of the relationship
  • Married Mr Mugabe, her second husband, in 1996 in an extravagant ceremony
  • Mr Mugabe's critics call her "Gucci Grace" and accuse her of lavish spending
  • Along with her husband, Mrs Mugabe is subject to EU and US sanctions, including travel bans
  • Celebrated by Mr Mugabe's supporters for her charitable work, Grace Mugabe founded an orphanage in Mazowe, central Zimbabwe

Birth of a Mugabe dynasty in Zimbabwe?

Mrs Mugabe was awarded the doctorate in sociology by her husband - who is the chancellor of the university - at a ceremony on 12 September not long after she was endorsed to lead the governing Zanu-PF women's wing.

Mr Hove, an outspoken critic of President Mugabe's government, said the university needed to be more transparent about the apparent fast-tracking of the first lady's degree.

"Her degree is not an honorary degree, it's an academic degree for academic achievement," he told the BBC.

"She was supposed to have a research proposal, a supervisor, and then research and write for at least three years."

"[Grace Mugabe] should be a person of honour and say, 'I did not study for this, please take it back, I made a mistake'."

If Vice-Chancellor Levy Nyagura had come under pressure to confer the degree, he should resign on ethical grounds in protest, the author said.

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