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NEWS Opinion

Revoke Grace Mugabe PHD: Student Body

by Costa Nkomo

THE framing Grace Mugabe as a powerful politician by the state media after assuming the position of Zanu PF Women’s League Secretary in 2014 was not sufficient to win the assent of the Zimbabweans. Instead, it resulted in backlash.

From a typist in the office of the president, to a lavish personality reminiscent of Marie Antoinette, spouse to the French king, Louis XVI of the 1770’s; various interpretations have been made of Mrs Mugabe’s character before and after her controversial marriage to Robert Mugabe in 1996.

Some have called her a woman of lose morals. Others, varsity students included, have made a parody of Grace’s rags-to-riches persona, which seems to have struck a hornet’s nest across the country.

In a bid to side-track this given background, Grace Mugabe was accorded a PhD at the University of Zimbabwe in 2014 and soon became known as ‘Doctor Amai,’ a narrative the state media believed to be more appealing to the masses This was a clear imposition of a character that never was.

Later that year, in the so-called ‘Meet the People Tour’ rallies in which Mrs Mugabe single handed purged the then Vice President, Joice Mujuru from Zanu PF, she failed to acquire and exhibit the voice and behaviour of a PhD holder.

‘…Mrs Mugabe’s thesis is alleged to be non-existent…’ 

Mrs Mugabe’s thesis, entitled: ‘The changing social structure, the functions of the family: The case of children’s homes in Zimbabwe’ is however, alleged to be non-existent.  Students have called for it to be availed to them for the past three years, to no avail.

The conferment of PhDs to academics takes a long and strenuous route in which writing the final thesis requires a minimum of three years. For one to pass, they should have made a significant input to the intellectual fountain.

 But, for Mrs Mugabe, it took her only three months.  Her husband, then Chancellor of all universities, accorded her a doctorate, a development  that struck the raw nerve of student activists across the country and took the media by storm in its various formats. On social media, students and other concerned academics blatantly called it “fake degree”.

“By dubiously getting a PhD from the UZ to boost her political and presidential ambitions, Grace Mugabe compromised UZ” said Director of Zimbabwe Democracy Institute, Dr Pedzisai Ruhanya, quoting Opa Muchinguri’s words.

Students and academics are lobbying the University of Zimbabwe to revoke Grace Mugabe’s PhD degree as soon as possible.

‘…Professor Levi Nyagura, UZ Vice Chancellor, must apologise and resign…’

The groups are also demanding an explanation from  Professor Levi Nyagura, UZ Vice Chancellor,  to  ‘clear the air’ on how  Mrs Mugabe was accorded the PhD.

Zimbabwe Congress of Student Union (Zicosu) led by President Takudzwa Gambiza demanded for the immediate revocation of Mrs Mugabe’s PhD which they perceive as a threat to Zimbabwe’s cherished education system.

“It’s of paramount importance that the fake PhD should be revoked, and a public apology issued by those who committed that heinous academic fraud”, Gambiza said.

Zicosu treasurer general, Godknows Mudhari also said academic achievements accrue as a result of hard work only.

“It is uttermost disrespect when fellow students are awarded such degrees on a silver platter,” said Mudhari. If this thesis is not authenticated then the degree should be revoked or UZ should award all of us the same degree for free.”

Fast forward to November 2017, having proved to the nation and the rest of the globe, that she was not nearer to being a PhD holder, Mrs Mugabe committed political suicide by unleashing venom on the person of the then Vice President, Emmerson Mnangagwa, a move that catalysed the liberation of Zimbabweans from an impending Mugabe dynasty.

 

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CULTURE

IGNORANCE: A NEW THREAT TO OUR HERITAGE

by Sineke Sibanda| @sinekesibanda image credit:awhf.net

“A person without knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots”

Over the years, the continuous cycle of inscribing and delisting heritage sites has been gradually ongoing and has become a core part of our tradition. We all just have an idea that we have been inscribed as a world heritage site today and years later we will be fighting hard to save that site from being registered in the endangered list of sites. Mostly this of course owes to a vast changing climate we probably all believe we have little control over, on the other hand, it is the competing needs to balance development on the sites without disturbing their natural beauty.

As much as these sites have been so integral in our lives and that of our history, there is another factor which has tentatively threatened increasing their vulnerability. I have been coerced to believe that every heritage site is at risk, risk of losing its universal outstanding value, owing to the vast ignorance the prospective future citizens has about these cultural and natural landscapes.

 

In basic terms, outstanding universal value (OUV) in heritage generally refers to the meaning that our heritage whether tangible or intangible, cultural or natural has. That which makes it unique to all of us. For a place like Great Zimbabwe, the OUV is that it is a self-sustaining rock structure with no mortar or clay that has intactly existed since about 1100AD. For a place like the Robben Island, its OUV would be its location and being the symbol of the triumph of the human spirit against adversity. The unique reason which makes a heritage entity what it is.

A lack of awareness is a growing threat to heritage sites in most African countries. I was privileged enough to attend the first African World Heritage Youth Forum held in Cape Town, South Africa from the 28th  of April to the 5th of May 2016. During the forum, sponsored by UNESCO and the African World Heritage Fund, it was revealed that a lack of awareness on the meaning of heritage in all the 23 countries represented was prevalent and this posed a risk that this lack of appreciation of heritage would run most sites into shadows of irrelevance and extinction.

ignorance-is-bliss
image cred:sirenconsultingfirm.com

It is sad today that to most young people in Zimbabwe, the Great Zimbabwe are just rocks, a few young people understand the significance, the roots and the identity that site has for any Zimbabwean. In one of my conversations after the forum with one of the most esteemed Zimbabwean ‘heritagist’, Pathisa Nyathi, a lack of appreciation was cited. He brought to context the Matobo Hills which were inscribed by UNESCO as a world heritage site in 2003 saying that the hills are under threat from local young boys who normally do cattle herding and in cold weather sometimes make fire in the bushmen caves where some rock paintings are found. This meant that the paintings are slowly becoming covered by smoke. He insisted that it was not their fault that such is happening because they do not even know what heritage is, let alone its importance and relevance to their daily living.

The future deserves all the opportunities we have had too. It is also our mandate to read about heritage, share stories about it. In essence, it is our collective responsibility to ensure our participation in key decisions that affect our heritage, because besides being just sites or traditional practices, our heritage bears our roots and identity. I would love to close off by quoting one South African lady I met during the forum. She writes: “A person without knowledge of their history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots. As I walk away from ignorance.” (Mmapule. P.  Maluleke, 2016).

(The word ‘heritagist’ is the author’s colloquial creation to explain a heritage expert.)

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CULTURE Opinion Politics

Just like the economy, Zim’s education is headed for the drain

Sineke Sibanda

A statement from the University of Zimbabwe Students Representative Council caused my heart to sink for a while and to think that Zimbabwe was once known for the best brains in Africa, it would hurt to now think that it could all turn out to be a façade. It was ludicrously unbelievable that the breadbasket of Africa could turn out to be a bread-beggar as evidenced with recent news on shortages of various basic commodities such as maize among others. Sure, just like how the economy which was on the same performing level with that of China and Thailand in terms of GDP per capita in 1985 and now is missing in the global rankings, Zimbabwe’s education may take that route too, its standard recognition is close to being extinct.

A decade ago, industries were complaining that most universities were churning out students who lacked industrial backbone and suffered from knowledge deficiency. Come to think of it, by then, government was still subsidizing these tertiary institutions. Now that the government has put a full stop to that, I guess the country is yet to see the worst; a depreciation in education delivery, depreciation in student performance, depreciation in students’ lifestyles and a depreciation of the country, all because of the money, education has been moved from the centre, and money has taken the place. The institutions do need money, yes! But should it not be proportional to the service rendered?

Depreciation in education delivery will be inevitable at the once sunshine school of the country as the institution seeks to increase the number of students by means of instituting two intakes every year without instituting any adjustment to the staff and facilities at the college. One can only imagine that if a lecturer was attending to 40 students in one class in each stream, he or she had about 120-160 students every year. With the second intake, it means we multiply 120 by two, which gives us 240. Suffice not comment on the numbers, you can surely see the ridiculous mockery and insult to the education system. Is it just about the degree or it is also about the genuine quality of the degree? With time, Zimbabwe’s once recognized degrees in most developed countries will begin to be bogus and mere papers certifying students’ incompetence.

Another issue is the issue of students’ residential area. As we speak, the university of Zimbabwe cannot cater for all students’ accommodation. So where is the new crop of students joining in going to stay? Ordinarily, the general populace in Zimbabwe is broke and lives under $0.30 a day; there will obviously be need for new houses to be built, who will build them? The rich politicians? This reminds me of a concept mastered by a former students leader, Takura Zhangazha, ‘Disaster Capitalism’, a situation where you create a disaster and then you profit/benefit from it. This disaster being created here, from a distance looks so thoughtful, reasonable and absolute but in essence, someone has created an opportunity to loot from the already broke parents sending their children to school.

There has been a shift in dimensions in the policy of privatizing education, starting with the creation of many informal colleges, gradual increase in intakes every year, introduction of multi-campussing and that of annual double intakes pioneered by the Midlands State University. The goalposts have been disoriented and this has justified a nature of not exercising our intelligence in constructing counter proactive strategies other than all these reactionary strategies we are now implementing and are hurting every Zimbabwean. So you mean no one in the aging government foresaw the dwindling of funds and then advised on instigating a counter plan or a fundraising strategy to salvage any shortfalls? You mean all the other universities across the world are dependent on their governments to fund them? What other fundraising projects could be run to make colleges self-sustaining? Just last year, the UZ churned out 3 451 graduates, and you mean none of them had a research that could be pursued and later pay back or generate income for the university. If not, then what function are the colleges serving if they are not academically solving contemporary problems.

For how long has been the UZ since inception churning out students, how many researches have paid back in that big pool of graduates? This is so ridiculous, a lot of people have not been doing their jobs in these varsities other than slouching in their big chairs thinking of the next gimmick to generate and steal from students. What have the universities been investing in? One of the reasons why this country has taken a downward turn is because of the degrees awarded to selfish administrators with little or no brains at all.

This whole drama can be summed up in the words of one particular UZ professor who said the problem with Zimbabwe is that people want economic indigenisation without economic empowerment. There is lack of foresight, sustainable strategies and the ability to think beyond the obvious. The government can continue cutting all they want on staff, increasing the number of intakes and or of students, but this is all cosmetic and reactionary. There is need for winning strategies and genuine people doing their job, otherwise the country is headed for the doldrums; a point of no return…

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Politics

How Mugabe Strangled the Zimbabwean Students’ Movement (Part 1)

By Alex T. Magaisa

People who don’t read their history are bound to forget it or to repeat its mistakes. They also tend to be overawed by events elsewhere, believing them to be new, when in fact, they are not.

The latter, especially, has been apparent in the last couple of weeks as events at universities around South Africa have unfolded, in what history will record as the #FeesMustFall students’ protests. The students’ movement in South Africa succeeded as their Government caved in to their demands to stop the increase in university fees. This has generated a lot of excitement, and for some, comparisons with events in Zimbabwe.

A number of Zimbabweans, many of a generation too young to remember events in our own country barely 25 years ago, have looked at what happened in South Africa, and asked why Zimbabweans have not been able to do the same, in the face of their own, even more serious challenges. Some in the media have even referred to it as ‘Protest Envy’, among Zimbabweans, suggesting how we, Zimbabweans, must feel seeing that our neighbours south of the Limpopo have the freedom to protest and achieve results in the manner they did. We must be envious, that they can do that, the thinking goes. Forgotten in all this is that we have been there before. We know that road too well.

As these events unfolded, I was reminded of a conversation I had back in 1998, 17 years ago, with a group of South African students. They had visited Zimbabwe for a conference of Southern African students’ unions, hosted by Zinasu, the national students’ movement body in Zimbabwe. I had already left the University of Zimbabwe the year before but Zinasu invited me to come and talk about free speech and academic freedom. Learnmore Jongwe, then the leader of Zinasu was a friend and I was happy to oblige.

At the time, our own students’ unions were very vibrant and active. They were facing similar challenges regarding university fees and students’ support and welfare which had been progressively eroded since the early 1990s. The decade since 1988 had witnessed numerous students’ protests, first at the UZ and later at NUST, the other university and various colleges.

I ended my speech with a warning to students from other countries, especially South Africa, that they had to remain vigilant, in order to avoid the path that Zimbabwe had taken. I advised against complacency in the euphoria of independence, which at the time, seemed to be encapsulated by the notion of the “Rainbow Nation”, which was then quite fashionable. One of the South African students responded, with a swagger in his voice that betrayed a slight hint of arrogance. “It won’t happen in South Africa,” he declared, before adding, “In South Africa, we are not like that. We have a democratic government and a robust constitution”. His compatriots nodded in approval. South Africa was different, the young men and women believed. I had a chuckle and said time would tell.

I have never forgotten that encounter at the humble abode of the YMCA in Kambuzuma, a busy suburb in western Harare, where the conference was being held. After Marikana, I thought about it. And in recent weeks, I have thought about it, too, as the students’ protests spread across campuses. Was it new? No. Was it unique? Again, no. At least in historical terms. It’s a pity I may never meet that group of students again, but it would be interesting to have an audit discussion over how South Africa has fared since that conference.

The point here is not to relegate the significance of the events in South Africa, but it is important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. If it sounds new, it is because people don’t read or choose not to remember history, or if they do, to so selectively. All across Africa, after a few years of post-independence euphoria, people have eventually woken up to the harsh realities of the system under which they are governed. Oft-times, it begins with students at universities and colleges. And there are good reasons why those places are brewing pots of initial challenges to the system.

There, at universities and colleges, there is a mass concentration of young, intelligent and open-minded people and their instructors, operating under the protective umbrella of academic freedom. They are engaged in the pursuit of knowledge. These intellectual enquiries introduce them to new ways of thinking, and to past struggles for liberty, equality and fairness. These ideas have huge appeal among the young and ambitious minds. Indeed, the young men and women begin to identify themselves with heroic figures from the past. They discover the great Che Guevara, Kwame Nkrumah, Amilcar Cabral, Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Frantz Fanon, Karl Marx and many more of the great figures from the past. The stories of these men and women, and their philosophies are hugely inspiring. Some even adopt their names, and for a few, it is by those monikers that society will forever remember them.

In a nutshell, the young men and women at universities and colleges begin to see the bigger picture, far beyond their enclaves, the little villages and towns in which they grew up. They begin to see the inequalities and injustices of the system, both at the national and international levels and they are outraged by what they learn. They are no longer just adding figures or constructing sentences but learning the ways of the world. In short, they make an important discovery of their historic role in society and begin to call themselves the “Voice of the Voiceless”, often wearing apparel declaring the same.

They form societies to challenge these undesirable aspects of the world. In all this, the students union has a central role. It is the rallying point for all students and societies. The students own it. They claim territorial sovereignty over this space, which they guard jealously from the authorities of the university and the State. It is a key part of university and college life, indeed a key institution in the governance structure of the university and college administration. But by its very nature and its role, it becomes a point of interest to authorities, who begin to see it as a threat. And for that reason, it has to be monitored, indeed, it must be subdued.

The students are often the first in society to see that there is something wrong with the national governance system. They are in the business of reading and reading gives them awareness and knowledge of what is happening in society. They have the energy, zeal and exuberance of youth, which often manifests as bravery and fearlessness. And so, they lead from the front, usually first in matters of self-interest, such as fees and welfare, and then when they discover the power of protest, they begin to grapple with matters of general interest to society – human rights, democracy, anti-corruption, solidarity with workers, etc. Actually, in Zimbabwe, it was the other way round, as they began with matters of public interest – corruption, anti-one-party state – in the late 1980s, before they were seized with matters of self-interest – academic freedom, fees, accommodation, students’ welfare.

The irony is that in all this time, the rest of the population might even regard the students as a nuisance, as a bunch of spoilt young people who are not grateful for what they are getting, things like access to higher education which the colonial system restricted from them. The nascent black middle-class, which is not yet fully developed but aspiring for more wealth and status, is especially the most threatened. They have recently joined the propertied class and they are protective of their possessions from these university ‘hooligans’ as the state and its media calls them. This friction between students and middle-class society is not helped by the fact that in their zealous approach, which is often in excess, they engage in destructive conduct – stoning and burning cars, houses and buildings, and generally displaying behaviour of a rowdy character.

Those in government, who increasingly regard themselves more exclusively as the sole liberators of the nation, are less amused, too. They might even curse students for not being grateful of the freedom they enjoy, a freedom which they, the liberators painstakingly delivered. Some in government begin to mull ways of teaching the young people a lesson. Those in security and intelligence begin to characterise students as a threat to national security. In time, the instruments of state security are unleashed upon the students.

At the same time, as we shall see in the case of Zimbabwe, the State begins to craft legislation that is designed to progressively weaken the students’ movement. And when the rest of society finally wakes up to the realities unleashed by their government and joins the students, the scene is set for bitter clashes with the ruling establishment. The ruling establishment will drop all pretences of democracy and morph into a brutal force. For legitimacy, it grounds its actions upon defence of liberation and sovereignty and re-brands students, civil society and the opposition as agents of Western imperialism. It restates a commitment to fighting neo-colonialism and therefore, doing all that is necessary to defeat the enemy. It re-discovers its mission as an agent of social justice and begins an attack on the institution of private property on the basis that it is pursuing the historic mission of redistribution.

What I have described above reflects in broad terms what happened in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, in particular, the relationship between the State, society and the students’ movement. Many people observing the #FeesMustFall protests around South African universities have been asking why Zimbabwean students and Zimbabweans generally are unable to do what the South African students have done. They probably don’t remember that we were there long before these events. We even had a pub at the students’ union at the UZ, October 4 was its name, so-named in honour of an historic day in the history of the students’ movement in Zimbabwe. It happened on 4th October 1989, when the UZ was shut down for the first time since independence, following demonstrations and clashes with police who had been deployed to thwart students’ protests. I shall describe in more detail the circumstances around October 4 in Part 2 of this series.

It is against this general background, that one must understand how, over the years, the Mugabe Government managed to strangle the students’ movement in Zimbabwe. In the next part, I will look in more detail at the ways in which the power of the students’ movement was progressively diluted using a multi-faceted set of strategies and tactics to the point where now, the students’ movement is generally weak and ineffectual. Then perhaps, it might become more apparent why a #FeesMustFall-type of protest is almost impossible in today’s Zimbabwe, but more importantly, why the apparent success of the South African students’ movement on this occasion must be read with caution. They have lessons to learn from their neighbours north of the Limpopo, and indeed, across the rest of Africa. And no, as many will discover, South Africa is not very different from the rest of us.

Categories
CULTURE

Of stinking opinions ‘Why you mustn’t marry any Zim woman who is 25 years older’

Vimbaimandiri

I am not yet 25. I will be 25 soon. I don’t foresee marriage on the table by the time I’m 25. I’m not a seer, I just prefer to get married later than 25, if I get married before 25 it will be a good thing. If I get married after 25 or way after 25 it should still be a good thing.

Now, when I read the article about why one must not marry a woman who is 25 years or older I laughed. I laughed because I thought the author was really funny and had a ‘sweetish’ imagination. In my laughter I was offended, offended because I am a woman. Offended because of the way this author chose to depict a woman’s worth. But then, it was just an opinion-like armpits we all have them-yet some stink.

His opinion ignited a heated debate in the NUST library…

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