10 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Warring VC, Lecturers Urged to Dialogue

Higher and Tertiary Education, Science and Technology Development Minister Professor Amon Murwira has called for dialogue between the University of Zimbabwe and its lecturers who are contesting the awarding of the doctorate to Mrs Grace Mugabe. Prof Murwira said the university and the lecturers must follow laid down procedures in resolving the issue.

"If people are genuine in solving this issue, they should follow the correct procedures which are clearly spelt out in the general academic regulations. We want discussions to go on and we want people to freely express their views without fear or favour," he said.

Prof Murwira said irregularities must be reported to the Academic Senate, the vanguard of the academic integrity. The senate then recommends its decision to the Academic Council.

The senate comprises of the vice chancellor, pro-vice-chancellors, deans, full professors, chairmen of departments, among others. The council, which is the supreme academic body comprise of the Chancellor, Minister's appointees and some members of the academic staff.

"Not anyone outside the academia nor even Government must interfere with this process," said Prof Murwira.

University of Zimbabwe vice chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura is up in arms with lecturers in the Department of Sociology over the awarding of a PHD to Mrs Mugabe. Mrs Mugabe wrote the PHD under her maiden name Grace Ntombizodwa Marufu. The lecturers allege that the PHD was awarded unprocedurally.

In a letter dated January 29, 2018, the 10 lecturers claimed that on January 24, 2018, Prof Nyagura called for a meeting in which he threatened them for challenging the awarding of the PHD to Mrs Mugabe.

"This constitutes abuse of office and silencing members of the board from complaining on developments within the department and is in violation of their Chapter 4 rights including, but not limited to their right to academic freedom in terms of section 61 (1) (c) and to administrative justice in terms of section 68 of the Constitution," wrote the lecturers.

The lecturers have since engaged their lawyers who are threatening legal action if the university fails to respond to their concerns within seven days. Prof Nyagura hit back saying the lecturers were either incapacitated to supervise a PHD student or they were ignorant of procedures. According to the regulations, if irregularities are discovered, the university council has the right to withdraw and cancel the degree.

Section 17.3 of the regulations reads: "If, subsequent to the award of a degree to a student, it is discovered that there were gross irregularities and impropriety involved in the award, the university council, on the recommendation of the senate, reserves the right to withdraw the award and cancel the certificate." The Department of Sociology has distanced itself from both the candidate and awarding of the degree.

The lecturers claim that the candidate earned the degree without their knowledge or involvement starting with her application, acceptance, supervision, examination and awarding of the degree. They are urging the university to revoke and nullify the degree. Mrs Mugabe graduated with the Doctor of Philosophy in the Faculty of Social Studies in September 2014.

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