HARARE – TOURISM minister Walter Mzembi is embroiled in a “dodgy degrees scandal” amid allegations that he has been failing to “pay” for a Mexican honorary doctorate in management.
This also comes as the smooth-faced Masvingo South legislator has been struggling to extricate himself from a multi-million dollar United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) tender row surrounding the appointment of a Professional Conference Organiser (PCO) for this major event.
According to information at hand, Mzembi — who has also been calling himself an engineer despite carrying a diploma — has allegedly fallen short on his promises to wire cash or money for an honorary degree under a deal facilitated by controversial professor Lovemore Mbigi.
“We are not allowed to discuss student details because it’s normally confidential. However, the guy (Mzembi) you mentioned from Zimbabwe has made tremendous contribution around their tourism industry,” the South African-based academic told the WeekendPost.
“We don’t issue certificates, but we partner universities that confer degrees (and) getting an honorary doctorate isn’t based on what you have achieved in life,” Mbigi said, adding a key consideration in this controversial drive or programme was “one’s curriculum vitae and have made tremendous achievements towards the development of your country”.
According to him it takes about three to six months for someone to be evaluated for a doctorate degree and only two or three Zimbabweans have qualified “for this honour” — even, though, inquiries have been coming in thick and fast.
Crucially, Mbigi said it costs people like Mzembi a cool $6 000 to land these coveted prizes or qualifications from little-known universities such as Azteca in South America.
While the Zanu PF minister — unwittingly voted top performer of the year by the Daily News last year — was unavailable for comment yesterday, as his mobile phone went unanswered.
In the meantime, a recent political resume seen by this paper shows that the controversial politician — fingered in the destabilisation of RioZim-owned gold miner Renco in recent times — has a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) from the same Mexican university.
The interesting paper, also extolling the 49-year-old minister’s working life, achievements and tourism awards, shows that Mzembi has a Zambian technologist diploma, which has earned him “engineer-ship” status for years.
The same CV also shows the Harare businessman has another BBA from Nicaragua — a Central American outpost famous for its coffee, sharks, volcanoes and lakes. Interestingly, Mzembi also has a diploma in business and governance studies from the United States.
His working life also includes stints as Ag-Venture marketing director and general manager of Stewards & Lloyds — a company once associated with President Robert Mugabe’s nephew Leo and ex-Zimbabwe Football Association chairman.
Between 1988 and 1990, the former Eddison Zvobgo protégé was a mines inspector in the then ministry of Mines.
While diploma holders like Mzembi have been allowed to carry the prestigious title of engineer due to a pre-2010 revision of the criteria used for one to qualify for such an honour, a Zimbabwe Institute of Engineers (ZIE) officer told the WeekendPost on Wednesday that things have since changed.
“Basically for one to be given the title engineer, you ought to have an engineering degree from a recognised university. A university alone is not sufficient to make one an engineer, but you ought to be registered with the Engineering Council of Zimbabwe (ECZ) after acquiring at least three years… in the engineering field,” Wilson Banda, the institute’s membership services and training officer, said.
“Nowadays, one cannot be recognised as an engineer without approval by the ECZ and without having minimum qualifications of a university degree (from a recognised institution),” he said, adding “back in the days ECZ would also accredit diploma holders as engineers” but this has since stopped onwards of November 2010.
Banda emphasised, though, that those accredited before this cut-off date would still be recognised as engineers, although “all certificate and diploma holders are only referred to as technicians”.
The Mzembi storm also comes as several other Zanu PF-aligned politicians are scrambling for doctorate degrees from fuzzy universities.
Although a furore has been raised after flamboyant businessman Philip Chiyangwa’s recent conferment from a Philippino college, it would seem that the St Linus University alumni — championed by Pythias Chinovava — is growing with MBCA Bank Limited chief executive Charity Jinya being the latest recipient.
However, the Native Investments Africa Group chairman and founder has vehemently defended his business leadership conferment on the grounds that it was from an institution recognised by the Commonwealth, and United Nations. — Weekend Post