By Paidamoyo Chipunza and Mirirai Nsingo
University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura has blasted lecturers in the Department of Sociology for challenging the awarding of a doctorate to former First Lady Grace Mugabe, saying they were “ignorant Messrs and doctors” with no academic capacity to supervise a PhD student.
In an interview with The Herald yesterday on demands by 10 lecturers for the university to revoke Mrs Mugabe’s PhD, Prof Nyagura said PhD students were supervised by the post-graduate centre and not a teaching department.
“There is no way that they could have supervised the candidate because a doctorate is not done by a teaching department. It is done by a post-graduate centre,” said Prof Nyagura.
He dismissed allegations that the thesis was not in the library until this year. Prof Nyagura claimed the thesis was deposited at the university library in 2014.
“Those are all lies. The thesis has always been in the library since 2014,” he said. Prof Nyagura said Mrs Mugabe’s thesis was supervised by two professors, who also supervised former Vice President Joice Mujuru.
In relation to Professor Mararike’s appointment, Prof Nyagura said the position required a candidate with traceable academic credentials, which the whole department lacked.
“Whoever is challenging the appointment of Professor Mararike is ignorant of the University’s ordinance laws, which is why maybe they are not Professors. The laws say ‘may’ consult not ‘must’ consult,” he said.
Prof Nyagura said the university was ready to defend its position should the lecturers consider taking a legal route. Earlier in the year, 10 lecturers from the department of sociology challenged Prof Nyagura to revoke and nullify Mrs Mugabe’s doctorate arguing that it was awarded unprocedurally.
Supervised by Professor Claude Mararike, Mrs Mugabe graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Social Studies in September 2014.
Through their lawyer Ms Fiona Iliff from the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the lectures said they were shocked to hear that Mrs Mugabe had been awarded a doctorate from their department when they never saw her application, acceptance letter, supervision and even awarding of the degree.
“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 lectures in their letter of concern dated January 29 2018 to the University’s Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura.
The 10 lecturers are: Prof Rudo Gaidzanwa, Drs Sandra Bhatasara, Julius Musevenzi, Fenton Ruparanganda, Gutsa, Mandizadza, Sadomba, Mate and Messrs Nelson Muparamoto and T Chevo. The lecturers further alleged that as at January 8 2018, Mrs Mugabe’s thesis was not in the university library.
“All things considered, the awarding of the degree under such circumstances was unethical, unprofessional, and unprocedural, as the quality of the final product was not controlled by qualified professionals if at all any research was conducted to warrant conferment of such a degree. The awarding of the degree constitutes academic corruption and criminal abuse of office in terms of section 174 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter 9:23) on the part of anyone implicated in awarding the degree at the University.”
With regards to Professor Mararike’s appointment, the lecturers alleged that he was appointed without their consultation as stipulated in the ordinance regulations. They said Prof Mararike whom they allege was Mrs 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.
“Your appointment of Professor C. Mararike was in breach of sections 4.2 and 4.7 of ordinance number 25 of the University of Zimbabwe, in that no consultation with members of the Sociology department board was ever done,” alleged the lecturers. Sources close to Mrs Mugabe’s PhD thesis saga claim that the department of Sociology has handled many other PhD students.
They said in the event that the department lacked competences in line with the student’s thesis, it is the department which seeks supervisors from other departments contrary to what transpired in Ms Mugabe’s doctorate. The sources also dismissed Prof Nyagura’s claims that no one in the department was qualified to hold the position of acting chairperson saying there was a full professor and four Doctors. The Herald