Grace degree: Anti-corruption prosecutors defend ED, Mugabe

BY DESMOND CHINGARANDE

Anti-Corruption special prosecutors yesterday defended President Emmerson Mnangagwa and his predecessor Robert Mugabe for not revoking the doctor of philosophy degree allegedly issued by suspended University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura to former First Lady Grace Mugabe without due process.

The special prosecutors said Mnangagwa was clean and his role at the institution was merely ceremonial.

Nyagura’s lawyer, Advocate Sylvester Hashiti, had asked the court to quash the charges, saying his matter was administrative and not criminal, as stated by the State.

He also said Mnangagwa and his predecessor certified the degree because the current UZ chancellor had not revoked it and the later conferred it at law.

But prosecutor Tapiwa Godzi said Mnangagwa’s role was ceremonial, with no executive responsibility and his duties were restricted to capping the students and speech reading.

“No blame can be attributed to the chancellors. The chancellor of UZ, as provided for in the Act, is completely ceremonial, with no executive responsibilities. By custom and practice, the chancellor is not involved at any stage until the graduation ceremony, where he makes a speech and caps graduates,” Godzi told court.

“Successful completion of a PhD requires multiple procedures to be followed and tasks to be achieved. Yet the chancellor is involved in none at all of these, not even in signing the degree certificate itself. In fact, it is normal practice that the chancellor arrives for the graduation ceremony straight to the venue and proceeds to the dressing room, after which he undertakes his duty of capping graduates.”

But Hashiti argued that the State did not have a complainant in the matter after the Higher and Tertiary Education ministry, which regulates the UZ, distanced itself from the case, saying they were not the complainant in the matter.

He read a letter from the ministry distancing itself from the case, saying they never reported the matter to the police and would not be reporting if given the chance.

“The State is saying they are the complainant, but at law, they are not. The Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education does not support this prosecution. They even wrote a letter, which is in the court record, that they never complained on the manner in which she (Grace) was conferred with the PhD and they said they are not in any way going to complain,” Hashiti told the court.

Acting chief magistrate Munamato Mutevedzi, who presided over the matter, postponed ruling of the application to April 9.

Allegations are that in 2011, Nyagura singlehandedly accepted and approved Ntombizodwa G Marufu’s (Grace’s maiden name) application to study a Doctor of Philosophy Degree in Sociology without the knowledge and recommendations of the Departmental Board and Faculty of Higher Degrees Committee, in violation of UZ quality assurance, guidelines and benchmark.

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