Police in Zimbabwe arrested a senior official and professor at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) on Friday for having participated in issuing former First Lady Grace Mugabe a Ph.D. that she did not qualify for, according to multiple reports.
The arrest is part of a sprawling corruption probe by the nation’s Anti-Corruption Commission (ZACC) under President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who took over late last year after the military intervened to end 93-year-old Robert Mugabe’s 30-year term as the country’s dictator. According to Zimbabwe’s Herald newspaper, the ZACC confirmed that UZ Vice Chancellor Professor Levi Nyagura was arrested and charged with abuse of power.
A ZACC spokeswoman told the newspaper Nyagura “has been arrested on allegations of abuse of office over the doctorate of former First Lady Grace Mugabe.”
Grace Mugabe received her Ph.D. in sociology 2014 after allegedly submitting a thesis on “the changing social structure and functions of the family,” according to the Guardian. Mugabe was only officially enrolled in UZ classes for two months, triggering widespread speculation that she had paid for the diploma without earning it. Rumors swirled that Mugabe had failed her university classes in London as a young girl and had a bad reputation as a student. She received her first university degree in 2011, after marrying Robert Mugabe, in Chinese language.
Shortly after the military forced Mugabe to step down in what officials insisted was not a coup d’etat, Mnangagwa allowed the opening of a case to reveal the truth about how Grace Mugabe received her Ph.D. According to the Herald, the ZACC demanded UZ hand over:
Mugabe’s pre-registration application form, her research proposal submitted to the Department of Sociology, minutes of the departmental board assigning a supervisor to Mrs Mugabe, academic certificates of her supervisor, minutes showing that the doctoral degree passed through the Academic Committee, and minutes of the UZ senate recommending to the university council the conferment of the doctorate on Mrs Mugabe.
Before Nyangura’s arrest, ten lecturers in the UZ sociology department reportedly testified through attorneys, seeking the attention of the federal government, that they were unethically kept away from the process of accrediting Mugabe and they had reason to believe she never registered for mandatory classes, never mind completed the prerequisites for the degree. Following Mugabe’s fall from power, a public outcry began demanding the publication of her thesis, which had remained outside of the public eye. The university published what it claimed to be Mugabe’s thesis in January, four years after she allegedly completed it.
At the time, Nyagura defended the granting of Mugabe’s Ph.D., stating that those accusing the university of corruption could not have supervised Mugabe “because a doctorate is not done by a teaching department. It is done by a post-graduate centre.”
The prosecutor in charge of the case that has resulted in Nyagura’s arrest has argued to the Harare judicial system that Nyagura “approved Ntombizodwa G Marufu (Grace’s maiden name) application without the knowledge and recommendations of the departmental board and faculty of higher degrees committee in violation of UZ quality assurance guidelines and benchmark.”
Nyagura is currently free on bail.
Mugabe, who earned the derisive nickname “Gucci Grace” for her lavish shopping sprees as much of Zimbabwe starved during her husband’s regime, made clear her intentions to succeed her husband in 2014, just as she got her new diploma. She since changed her tune last year when, amid a power struggle that saw Mnangagwa temporarily flee the country, she stated that her husband would rule eternally over Zimbabwe as a “corpse.”
“One day when God decides that Mugabe dies, we will have his corpse appear as a candidate on the ballot paper,” she claimed. “You will see people voting for Mugabe as a corpse. I am seriously telling you—just to show people how people love their president.”
By November, Mnangagwa successfully removed Robert Mugabe from power, cutting short Grace’s path to the presidency.
In an attempt to ensure a smooth transition, Mnangagwa—who served as Mugabe’s vice president before being exiled—has offered the Mugabes a lavish golden parachute. Shortly following his removal from power, Mnangagwa declared the establishment of a holiday to celebrate Mugabe. His government also announced that Zimbabwean taxpayers would fund a “reasonably sized” mansion, an extensive gardening and caretaking staff, first-class air travel and luxury vehicles for both Mugabes for life.
As dictator, Mugabe oversaw the transformation of Zimbabwe from Africa’s “bread basket” to one of the continent’s most impoverished nations, imposing racist anti-white policies and presiding over the nation’s most recent genocide, the Gukurahundi.