Harare – Academics in Zimbabwe and South Africa have poured scorn on Grace Mugabe’s controversial PhD, pointing out that it doesn’t meet the minimum standard for a doctoral thesis.
The former first lady was awarded the doctorate in sociology by the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) in August 2014, just three months after she was first reported to have enrolled.
The thesis was only posted onto the university website last week, four years late. Since then, it has become the subject of intense scrutiny, and ridicule.
“It’s not a PhD thesis but a mere compilation of plagiarised text and quotations from grey literature, newspaper articles, television and radio programmes. It does not contribute original ideas to knowledge,” analyst Maxwell Saungweme told the private Zimbabwe Independent this week.
‘Greatest academic fraud’
“This is criminal and she must be sued for breaching copyright laws,” he said.
Writing on Twitter, Zimbabwe political analyst Pedzisai Ruhanya dismissed the thesis as “the greatest academic fraud in history”. He said it included citations from 2016 and 2017, well after the date Grace Mugabe graduated.
“There is no fraud that beats this!” said Ruhanya, who holds a PhD in media and communications from London’s University of Westminster.
Some academics at the UZ have petitioned the anti-corruption commission to probe the awarding of the doctorate to Grace Mugabe. Last month a top official at the commission confirmed receiving the petition, but said there was “no investigation regarding the PhD.”
Earlier this week Rhodes University sociologist, Kirk Helliker said most of the literature used to produce the thesis was published before 1999, meaning it is unable to make a contribution to modern theory or methodology.
Far below expectation
Writing in the Mail & Guardian this week, Helliker said he had done a “deep read” of the thesis. His conclusion: “The discussion in the thesis around theory is extremely shallow and is likely at a level somewhere between an honours dissertation and a half Masters’ thesis,” he wrote. “It simply falls far below the expectations of a PhD thesis.”