Plans to name university after Robert Mugabe condemned

Unions call decision an ‘insult’ to staff in Zimbabwe’s higher education sector

May 30, 2017
Robert Mugabe, president of Zimbabwe

The Zimbabwean government’s plan to name a new university after President Robert Mugabe has drawn widespread criticism in the higher education sector.

Higher education minister Jonathan Moyo had declared that the as-yet-unbuilt specialist university would take the veteran president’s name because he was “an iconic leader who has distinguished himself in the area of education”.

However, Takavafira Zhou, president of the Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe and a history lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University, said that this would be wrong because Mr Mugabe had ruined his reputation and that of the country by staying in the presidency too long.

Dr Zhou accused Mr Mugabe of “presiding over the evils of terror and poverty”, and criticised his disastrous economic policies, which have forced many in the country into street vending, New Zimbabwe reported. He added that the president was associated with tyranny, dictatorship, cronyism and economic decay and did not deserve any further appreciation than he already has.

“Naming a university after him will be palpably unfair and a monument of Zimbabwean injustice,” Dr Zhou said.

Elsewhere, Pride Mkono, an activist with the Zimbabwe Amalgamated Rural Teachers’ Union and former president of the Zimbabwe National Students’ Union (Zinasu), decried the idea as insulting.

“It is the biggest insult that he who represents the maximum failure of any nation, from economic decay to educational collapse and that of every functional system, whose only heritage is the militarisation of everything including the sale of matchsticks in this country, has to have a university named after him,” he said. “It would be the biggest insult on any academics.”

His words were echoed by current Zinasu secretary general Makomborero Haruzivishe, who said that Mr Mugabe’s name did not inspire any pride among scholars.

“He has deeply corrupted any historical prospects through habitual violations of academic freedoms and total disrespect of academic principles,” he said. “His brutal regime has victimised student leaders, denying students freedom of expression [and] thwarting the freedom of conscience on the academia.

“Thus, as Zinasu, we feel he is not befitting to be awarded this honour, especially from politicians who are doing this to score political points and earn protection for their corrupt activities.”

Professor Moyo’s plan did receive some support in the country, however, with Kudzanayi Chipanga, a legislator and party youth league secretary for Mr Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF party, saying that his reputation was now “more than intact” and he deserved every honour conferred on him.

john.elmes@timeshighereducation.com

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