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FIRST Lady Dr Grace Mugabe yesterday broke the silence over her controversial doctorate, saying she was determined to prove that she earned the title through hard work.

Addressing a maiden political rally in Chinhoyi following her recent conferment with a doctorate of philosophy degree by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) and her nomination to lead the Zanu PF Women's league, Grace vowed to shame her detractors.

The First Lady's PhD has stirred controversy over the past few weeks amid reports that UZ authorities could have upgraded her masters' degree into a PhD, with some sources saying she did not even study for the degree programme.

Speculation swirled last week following reports that her thesis file was missing in the university archives, although her peers' including Vice-President Joice Mujuru, had their theses documents publicised.

However, UZ authorities have kept mum over the issue while Grace's sympathisers claimed that the speculative reports were part of a plot to discredit her political career.

Addressing over 2 000 Zanu PF supporters at a campaign rally at Chinhoyi Stadium, Grace said what mattered most was not titles, but ability to deliver on people's needs.

"You might have the title, but fail to garner the respect from the people . . . I can be called First Lady or Doctor Mugabe and hang certificates on walls of my house, but that certificate is not the one that will work," she said.

Grace also took a swipe at factionalism in the ruling party and bemoaned what she termed lack of proper leadership qualities among some Zanu PF officials, adding that should her husband President Robert Mugabe decide to quit active politics, the party would crumble.

"Today is an important day for me as it is a day I was asked by women in the country to kickstart my political career. Factionalism will get us nowhere if what we are hearing is true then those who are doing it are a shame to the party. They are getting money from Americans and the British to destabilise our party," she said.

Grace warned party members to work tirelessly all the time not to wait for election time to visit constituencies.

Speaking at the same event, outgoing secretary for Women's League Oppah Muchinguri said the First Lady would be the chief advisor to the Mugabe in almost everything.

"She is now the chief advisor of President Mugabe. That is why when she came she wanted to know about the fairness of inputs distribution and report back on many other issues. The senior queen is now Amai Mugabe," Muchinguri said.

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