By Tarisai Machakaire
The State’s case against University of Zimbabwe (UZ) Vice Chancellor Levi Nyagura, accused of corruptly irregularly awarding a PhD degree to wife of ousted president Robert Mugabe, is crumbling.
This comes after the Higher Education ministry — cited as the complainant in the matter — said it never lodged a query against Grace Mugabe.
According to State papers, the permanent secretary in the Higher Education ministry, one L Mudyiwa, allegedly lodged a complaint against Nyagura, but the office denies, making such a report in a letter addressed to Attorney-General Prince Machaya.
“The ministry would like to register its complaint against (the) Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission (Zacc). The basis of the complaint is that, we note from court papers that Zacc has been citing the permanent secretary as the complainant in cases involving the UZ vice chancellor as the accused,” the letter read in part.
“The ministry would like to state that it is not aware of the issues and neither was it involved in making any complaints to Zacc or being involved in investigations leading to the accused person being arraigned before the court for criminal abuse of office…the ministry is not involved in academic issues.
“The issue is purely academic and is the domain of the university through the Council or Senate. The ministry only provides administrative oversight to the university and is not qualified to comment, make a determination or give an opinion on whether what was done by the accused person was a criminal offence or not.”
According to the letter, that decision ought to be made by the University Council and Senate as supreme organs on academic issues.
“The ministry would like you as our lawyer to set the record straight since this is an issue which is already before the court. The court papers are defective in as far as they cite the wrong person as representing the complainant. The ministry never complained and does not intend to complain,” reads the letter.As such, Nyagura claims that there was no reasonable suspicion warranting his arrest.
He is also demanding that investigating officer Richard Machinya be brought to court to explain why he has been placed on remand yet there is no evidence linking him to the offence.
Machinya is frantically trying to acquire a warrant of search and seizure to look for documents that form the basis of the allegations pressed against Nyagura.
This follows the High Court’s reversal of Harare magistrate Elisha Singano’s ruling, empowering Zacc to search and seize from the UZ all documents relating to the probe.
This was after the learning institution had filed an urgent High Court application, challenging Singano’s ruling on the basis that it was illegal.
High Court judge Lavender Makoni ruled the warrant that had been issued was null.
Nyagura is being charged with criminal abuse of office and has challenged his prosecution on the basis that the State does not have evidence to form reasonable suspicion against him as required by law.
His lawyer, Lewis Uriri, has argued that there is no complainant in the matter considering that the ministry of Higher Education — cited as complainant in the State papers has denied any association with the case.
But prosecutor Michael Reza said they were pursuing prosecution regardless.
Yesterday, the State said it was pressing for prosecution of Nyagura even if the complainant has turned hostile.
“What is required of the State is to place before the court sufficient evidence showing that the accused person may have done what is alleged to have done. Counsel ought to be disabused from this notion as it not a requirement at this stage,” Reza responded.
“The presumption of section 174(2) is that; if the prosecutor proves that a public officer did anything to the favour of any person in breach of his or her duty as a public officer it will be presumed, unless the contrary is proved, that he or she did it for the purpose of showing favour to the person.
“It is not in dispute that the accused person was the vice chancellor of the UZ, a State institution. He is therefore a public official and consequently covered by the provisions of section 174.”
In the High Court case challenging the search and seizure warrant, the UZ had cited Zacc, Machinya and Singano as respondents.
Singano had directed the UZ Registrar Noah Ariel Mutongoreni or any other senior official at the institution to provide a set of relevant documents, records and articles to Zacc for a probe on the allegations that Grace had been corruptly awarded a doctorate degree by the institution.
Some of the documents that the court required to be made available include pre-registration application form, Grace’s research proposal submitted to the Department of Sociology, minutes of the departmental board assigning a supervisor to Grace, academic certificates of her supervisor, minutes showing that the doctorate degree passed through the Academic Committee, and minutes of the UZ Senate recommending to the University Council the conferment of the doctorate on Grace.
According to the directive, Zacc was also supposed to be furnished with the UZ Faculty Ordinance number 44, UZ quality assurance guidelines and benchmarks for management and supervision of higher degrees by research, General Academic Regulations for Post-Graduate Degrees of the University of Zimbabwe 1998/99 Volume 11, as well as copies of the transcript, notification and Doctor of Philosophy Degree awarded to Grace.
Singano’s ruling prompted UZ to approach the High Court, arguing the warrant violated the institution’s rights and was illegal. Daily News