LETTER FROM AMERICA: Lessons from U-Zee

LETTER FROM AMERICA: Lessons from U-Zee
Levi Nyagura, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe

Levi Nyagura, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe

A VOICE said to me: “Wake up and write!” I shook up my slumber and looked in the darkness. There was nobody in the room. Then I knew that it was the spirit (shave) of the quill waking me up. “I will tell you the words,” the voice continued.
The agreed facts are that Levi Nyagura, Vice Chancellor of the University of Zimbabwe, was suspended over the award of a doctoral degree to Sister Grace Mugabe. Sister Grace’s husband was the Chancellor of the University and, therefore, Brother Nyagura’s superior.
“So,” I asked, “what exactly is the charge against the brother and what are we supposed to learn from it? I regard the brother as a friend. Am I allowed to offer a defence on his behalf?”
Though still in a trance, I became aware that the brother faced the possibility of being placed in a lock-up. It also appeared that he had been arraigned before Justice Priscilla Chigumba. The enormity of the crime was now clear. The brother was charged with abuse of office, awarding a fake degree, ignoring the rules and protocols of academy, threatening the learned professors with unspecified retributions. If half the agreed facts are correct, even if one of the facts is correct, the case was indefensible in law and in conscience. If, for instance, Sister Grace registered for the degree sometime in 2014, was given extra coaching by the renowned Claude Mararike, she could not have possibly carried out a sustained and relentless research in her field of choice within one year.
There must be some sort of explanation.
“Your most gracious judge,” a sonorous voice started slowly, “as you know, the cloud of tyranny has just been lifted from this land we call Zimbabwe. I will not waste your time by disputing the facts. It is true that by any stretch of imagination, the procedures requiring a detailed book review, followed by a thesis proposal would have taken the better part of a year if the student had been subjected to rigorous academic training as required by the doctoral degree handbook.
“Field research thereafter would have taken at least two more years.
“I will not delay this court any further, your most gracious honorable judge on this point, nor will I say that former president Robert Mugabe instructed me to do anything untoward. It appeared to me at the time, and my advisors agreed with me, that if we speeded up the process, and if the professors did everything that could be done to achieve that aim, awarding that degree would strengthen the student’s role in the country. She was already taking a decisive role in the affairs of the country.”
Interruption from the judge. “Are you saying, professor, that the degree was political rather than academic? If so, why did you not propose an honorary degree?”
“Your honour, I must confess that we were working in a surreal world. The academia, at my instigation, with the support of Professor Jonathan Moyo, was also working on a parallel scheme to bring to fruition the Robert Gabriel Mugabe University, which would be the premier centre of learning in Africa.
“Ancillary to this development, we were planning a celebration of the illustrious life and times of Robert Mugabe, the founding father of our nation, magna lumina (the great light). With the promise of one billion dollars for the new centre of learning and for the celebratory shenanigans in place, our names dreamers of this university, would be etched in stone in the book of life.”
There was silence in the court. The judge put on her reading glasses, moved her judicial woolen wig from her head, exposing the full view of the most angelic face that ever sat on the Zimbabwe bench.
It was the face of Athena herself in flesh.
“Proceed sir,” the judicial voice commanded.
“Most honourable and precious judge, I now proceed to the most important part of my defense. These words still ring a bell in my mind. “Mupeiwo madhigiri amurikupa Joice Mujuru.” But, your Honour, look at me. I am not as lucky as my friend here Ken Mufuka, who can flee to the US at the drop of a pin. I do not have the face of an angel such as you have been blessed with, which will open doors and keep them open. I am now well into my eighties in age. I have been a ZANU stalwart all my life. I do not have a nest egg somewhere hidden for my old age. Nor do I have the beneficence of the United States Social Security system as my friend Ken here does. It seemed at the time — Mugabe was our passport to a comfortable retirement.”
Interruption: The Honourable Justice stands up, sparing her robe aside, revealing her angelic posture.
“The accused must know that flattery will not get him anywhere in this court, Proceed.”
Commotion and laughter in the court.
“I place myself at the mercy of the court. May I add a sentence from Shylock, justice tempered with mercy.”
I woke up.
The moral is that academics are like virgins in a brothel where the twin evils of politics and shenanigans compete for pride of place. Ignatius Chombo once walked on water with Grace and Mugabe. My beloved Charles Nherera, whose gracious hospitality at Chinhoyi University I once enjoyed, found himself surrounded at ZUPCO by seasoned malefactors.
mufukaken@gmail.com

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