Top-ranking government officials studying with a bogus university have been left with egg on their faces as the college was ordered to close down.
The revelation comes amid fresh reports of prominent Zimbabweans receiving honorary doctorates and other degrees from bogus universities around the world. The unregistered Calvary university duped the government officials, among them cabinet ministers, top police and army officers, permanent secretaries and directors, into believing that it was registered.
"As a result, they flocked to Calvary where they assumed they would get easy doctorates and other post-graduate degrees that they hoped to use to solidify their appointments in government and possibly get promotions, besides the prestige that came with the qualifications," said a prominent academic privy to the scam.
"Little did they know that Calvary had just identified a niche market for degree hungry people and was riding on that opportunity. Senior civil servants who had first degrees, especially from Cuba and Russia, were under pressure to improve their qualifications," said the source.
College lecturers and assistant lecturers were also anxious to get higher qualifications after government ordered that to qualify as teaching staff, they must possess doctoral degrees. The deadline for this directive is 2015.
Calvary was located at Mass Media House along Selous Avenue in Harare before the government, through the Zimbabwe Council for Higher Education (Zimche), currently led by University of Zimbabwe Vice Chancellor Levi Nyagura, banned it.
The college then claimed to be affiliated to Calvary University based in the UK, but Zimche discovered this to be untrue. When it was ordered to close shop, it quickly transformed itself into Christ College and relocated to Number 66, West Road, Avondale, where it still has offices.
Christ College has been embroiled in further problems with Zimche and has been ordered to stop offering degree programmes.
The Zimbabwean can confirm that Bright Matonga, a former Information deputy minister and Zanu (PF) Member of Parliament, was studying for a doctorate in communication studies with the so-called university.
Police Commissioner Augustine Chihuri, sources said, was also studying for a higher business management degree, but the police spokesperson, Charity Charamba, was not responding to calls to confirm this.
A named permanent secretary, added the sources, was forced to call off his doctoral communications studies when the bogus college was banned. Numerous others have either completely abandoned their degrees or are pursuing them with other universities.
"With the exception of a few lecturers and supervisors with genuine higher degree qualifications, most of the teaching staff at Calvary had questionable credentials. Even the wives of prominent government officials had been enrolled for degrees because entry requirements were not strict," said a source.
Led by Professor Washington Mahiya, who is listed on the college website as having several doctoral degrees, the institution had signed several memoranda of understanding with local state universities.
Rodwell Matanhire, the Christ College Dean, confirmed that his institution was no longer offering degree programmes. "We are only offering a diploma in theology at GZU, which is certifying the students. Students who had started degree programmes with us had to transfer to GZU and are currently involved in a teach-out arrangement whereby they have to complete their studies while we do the administrative work and we will not recruit after that," he said.
He could not comment on the Calvary scam, saying he was not working for the institution then.
The council has banned several colleges that were issuing questionable degrees, among them the Pan African College of Zimbabwe, Megham Consulting, United Theological College, University of Africa (not to be confused with Africa University), Atlantic International and Harare Theological College.
Many prominent people are reported to have received unrecognised degrees from these institutions, including Zanu (PF) stalwarts Phillip Chiyangwa and James Makamba, who both got degrees from the discredited Philippines-based St Linus University.
Tourism minister Walter Mzembi was last year linked to a shady doctoral degree programme facilitated by a Zimbabwean professor, Lovemore Mbigi, based in South Africa.
Mbigi, who is well connected in Zanu (PF) circles, had his attempts to offer joint post-graduate studies turned down by ZOU several years ago after it was discovered that his purported institution was bogus.