HARARE – With the recent controversy of Grace Mugabe’s PhD still fresh in their minds, the University of Zimbabwe played it safe on Friday as another first lady took centre stage at its latest graduation.
Where the university had awarded the former first lady a substantive PhD purportedly earned by the standard academic process of original research, President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s wife, Auxillia, was conferred with an honorary degree.
The 60-year-old was awarded a Doctor of Philosophy in Law, the university said as recognition of her philanthropic work with the Angel of Hope Foundation which she founded.
She was capped by her husband.
Mrs Mnangagwa will swerve the intense controversy that followed Grace Mugabe’s graduation at the university in 2014 after it emerged that she did not defend her thesis, let alone write one and that she did not take the required period of time to complete the degree.
Subsequently, the University of Zimbabwe’s then vice chancellor Levy Nyagura was prosecuted for criminal abuse of office, accused of presiding over a process that conferred a “fake degree.” She is yet to be stripped of the degree.
Vain politicians and powerful people have been known to lean on education ministers and senior university staff lobbying for honorary degrees. They often go on to demand that state media uses the honorific – a mark of achievement and status symbol for them.
“This is quite humbling. I’m indeed overwhelmed by this gesture which I never dreamt of. As I humbly accept this honour, I would like to acknowledge and appreciate the unfailing support which I received from you,” she said in her acceptance speech.
“I also extend my gratitude to the hard-working and goal-oriented staff members of the Angel of Hope Foundation without whom this achievement could not have been realised.”
Retired Anglican cleric Reverend Lazarus Muyambi, who together with his late wife established the church in Gokwe and built schools and clinics was also awarded an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy in Law.
“I’m greatly humbled to be honoured for the work of God, for recognising my religious work. I never thought this day would come while I’m still alive. It’s quite a humbling gesture,” he said.
“The people I want to acknowledge include the Gokwe community, co-workers at St Agnes Mission centre, co-workers at the orphanage and many other spaces we created to serve the needs and marginalised.”