The trial of University of Zimbabwe (UZ) vice-chancellor Levi Nyagura for awarding former First Lady Grace Mugabe a doctorate degree (PhD), failed to kick off yesterday due to unpreparedness of his defence team.
Nyagura, who is facing charges of criminal abuse of office, is being represented by Advocate Lewis Uriri.
The UZ boss yesterday told magistrate Estere Chivasa that his lawyer, who was not in the gallery, was asking for more time to prepare for the case and the State, represented by Tapiwa Godzi, did not oppose the application.
Allegations are that sometime in 2011, Nyagura single-handedly accepted and approved an application by Ntombizodwa G Marufu (Grace’s maiden name) to study for a PhD in sociology without the knowledge and recommendations of the departmental board and faculty of higher degrees committee in violation of UZ quality assurance, guidelines and benchmark.
It is alleged during the same period, Nyagura covertly appointed Claude Mararike and a Professor Chaneta to supervise Grace’s thesis without the knowledge and approval of the department board of sociology, who are mandated to accept the applications and allocate it to supervisors of students in terms of general academic regulations.
The State alleges that Nyagura usurped the powers of the senate by single-handedly appointing examiners to examine Grace’s research in violation of UZ Act chapter 25:16 and Ordinance 1998/99 volume, which gave prerogative to the senate.
Nyagura allegedly led supervisors and examiners to Grace’s Mazowe Estate, where oral examinations were purportedly done, whereas the oral examinations were supposed to be done at the UZ premises.
It is alleged during the same year, Nyagura recommended to the chancellor the conferment of a doctor of philosophy degree in sociology to Grace without the knowledge and approval of the UZ council and academic committee.
The State alleges in September 2014, Grace was among the graduands without the approval of the council.
The sociology department distanced itself from both the candidate and awarding of the degree as it was done without their knowledge. Nyagura allegedly abused his position after showing favour to Grace, who did not meet the minimum requirements to study for the degree.
It is alleged Nyagura’s action had the effect of making the education system in Zimbabwe discredited, thereby affecting its international rankings and raising doubt about qualifications from Zimbabwe’s institution of higher learning.