Liberation war fighters are piling pressure on President Emmerson Mnangagwa to arrest former first lady Grace Mugabe over her attainment of a doctorate degree under controversial circumstances but analysts have cautioned that any punitive action against the first family might backfire for Zanu PF at the polls.
In a statement issued yesterday, the Zimbabwe National Liberation War Veterans Association (Znlwva) said failure to arrest Grace, alleged to have been corruptly awarded the PhD by officials at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) would make a mockery of Mnangagwa’s anti-corruption crusade.
“The president has made a clarion call to permanently destroy the vice of corruption, leaving no sacred cows. This means the conduct of all those who hold office, impacting on other people’s lives, should be open to rigorous public scrutiny and they must be held accountable without fear or favour,” Znlwva said in the statement.
“It is mind-boggling that an institution, (such) as the University of Zimbabwe, mandated to nurture and educate our young members of society is led by people who protect and cover-up corruption and abuse of office. Why should corruption at UZ be considered a sacred cow?”
Grace was awarded the PhD in 2014 after about three months of study.
Doctorates typically require several years of full-time research and writing.
Levi Nyagura, the vice chancellor of the UZ was arrested last month after the Zimbabwe Anti-Corruption Commission initiated investigations into the matter.
He is currently out on bail.
Znlwva yesterday said it believed that the saga provides a litmus test for Mnangagwa’s government, which has pitched the fight against corruption on top of its agenda.
The association said unfettered investigations should commence forthwith into the conduct of the country’s oldest university to rid the institution of any practices that taint the current dispensation as this potentially poisons learners.
The war veterans said if government fails to handle the case properly, it will tarnish the integrity of Zimbabwe’s education system.
“We, veterans of Zimbabwe’s liberation struggle and the vanguard and custodians of the revolution and architects of this new dispensation demand explanation from all involved institutions and organs of the State mandated to uphold our educational system. These organs must perform the honourable task of explaining to the Zimbabwean public the exact circumstances, the procedures and all the processes followed in awarding Grace … a doctoral degree by the UZ.
“We cannot afford to have our education system marred by individuals who use their positions of office to circumvent rules, customs and practices that all others are subjected to. We shall leave no stone unturned in our demands,” said Znlwva.
They further said, “We know that Generation 40 (G40) elements thrive in our midst and are fighting to sustain and cover up the vice. Prominent G40 activists jump the fence and start to advance their agenda in the new dispensation. These individuals do not repent and consider themselves as irreplaceable which is totally fallacious.”
Grace is also facing charges of illegal dealings in ivory while she was still the first lady.
Police have confirmed that they are investigating her.
Analysts canvassed by the Daily News this week said Mnangagwa cannot move against the former first family now as that would hurt Zanu PF in the forthcoming elections.
They said the threats coming from government targeted at the Mugabes were more of sabre-rattling and designed to remind the former president and his wife that things have changed with the aim of silencing them.
Political scientist Eldred Masunungure said for now Mnangagwa just wants to send warning shots to his former master, who has been throwing barbs at his administration, accusing him of ruling “illegally”.
“I am not sure the aim is to arrest. This is meant to embarrass her and show her that there is a new sheriff in town and that they should watch their steps; it’s really to tell the former first family where the power now lies. She is just being reminded that the power has left and now lies elsewhere,” he said.
Political analyst, Maxwell Saungweme, said while Mnangagwa can move against Mugabe, such a move would be “suicidal”.
“It is possible to move in against them. But it is politically heedless. It will backfire since the regime has so many skeletons in the cupboard Mugabe and G40 are aware of,” he said.
“A move on Grace and Mugabe will be good for the transparency and ridding the country of corruption, but will also rope in Mnangagwa and the military. It will be a self-defeatist manoeuvre. It will end the junta admin- good for democracy,” added Saungweme.
Professor of World Politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London in the United Kingdom, Stephen Chan, said Mnangagwa was better advised to leave Mugabe in peace.
“It should wait till after the elections have accorded it full constitutional legitimacy, and then take action through the courts. Even in the case of the Mugabes, there needs to be a new page with rule of law and transparent procedure,” said Chan.
After the military arm-twisted Mugabe into resigning in November last year, Mnangagwa was elected Zanu PF leader and subsequently sworn-in on the 24th of the same month as the country’s second executive president.
Although he promised to protect Mugabe’s legacy, Mnangagwa is now seemingly growing impatient with his former master with his loyalists pushing for his expulsion or even arrest.