Legislators have thrown their weight behind Parliament in dismissing a petition by the Zimbabwe National Students Union to have the Legislature probe the conferment of a Doctor of Philosophy degree on the First Lady Amai Grace Mugabe by the University of Zimbabwe. Speaker of the National Assembly Cde Jacob Mudenda and Clerk of Parliament Mr Austin Zvoma wrote to zinasu unequivocally dismissing prospects of the matter being investigated by parliamentarians.
In the letter, Cde Mudenda said Parliament had no legal authority or justification to accept or rule over the matter.
zinasu was consequently advised that they should direct their concerns either to the senate of the University of Zimbabwe or the relevant ministry and the courts.
In an interview yesterday, legislators described Cde Mudenda’s decision as prudent and consistence with upholding the rule of law.
Portfolio committee chairperson for Youth Development, Indigenisation and Empowerment and Gokwe Nembudziya MP Cde Justice Mayor Wadyajena said Cde Mudenda’s decision was commendable.
“It is not the role of Parliament to confer degrees,” he said. “If they have any grievance they should direct them to the UZ.”
Cde Wadyajena said the students should instead emulate the First Lady to attain a prestigious educational status.
“They should emulate Amai Mugabe for her hard work,” he said. “It is not an honorary degree; she earned it after working for it, hence she clearly deserved that doctorate. We cannot waste the country’s resources probing the conferment of her degree. She was capped by His Excellency President Mugabe who is a man of principle.”
Cde Wadyajena described Amai Mugabe as humble for quietly working for her doctorate unlike other people.
A member of the portfolio committee on Higher and Tertiary Education and Midlands MP, Cde Melody Dziva, described Cde Mudenda’s letter as objective.
“Parliament has no mandate to direct a probe,” she said. “They are trying to discredit her because of our background and society which is patriarchal. Here is a woman who has worked hard to attain that qualification.”
Cde Dziva said zinasu’s petition was motivated by the fact that Amai Mugabe is a woman.
Another MP concurred, saying what Parliament did was commendable.
“I do not see anything wrong with what Parliament has done,” she said. “The petition was clearly misdirected. The Speaker was actually civil in responding, otherwise the petition was not worth replying.”
Amai Mugabe was capped along with Vice President Joice Mujuru, Primary and Secondary Education Minister Dr Lazarus Dokora and nine others at a UZ graduation ceremony last month.
Amai Mugabe has since been endorsed to lead the ruling zanu-pf’s women’s wing.
In his response to the zinasu petition, Cde Mudenda made it clear that the students were misled.
“It must, therefore, be understood that disputes regarding conferment of degrees can be appropriately dealt with by the Ministry of Higher and Tertiary Education, the Senate or University of Zimbabwe or the courts,” said Cde Mudenda.
“The executive, under the Minister of Higher and Tertiary Education, is responsible for universities, polytechnics and colleges of Zimbabwe. For this reason, Parliament is barred from interfering with the independence of the executive arm of the State unless the organ grossly violates the provisions of the Constitution.”
While acknowledging that citizens have the right to petition Parliament, Cde Mudenda said the legislature can only deal with matters within its authority.