Former Zimbabwean president Robert Mugabe. File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Harare - Plans for a new R12 bn university to be built and named in honour of former president Robert Mugabe have been put on ice and are unlikely to be revived. 

Zimbabwe already has 14 so-called universities, but ‘degrees' from most of them are largely unrecognised outside Zimbabwe, as educational standards crashed over the last 25 years. 

The Robert Mugabe University project was announced just three months before the Zimbabwe military launched a soft coup last November, and a week later Mugabe retired as parliament began procedures to impeach him. 

Former vice president Emmerson Mnangagwa, who had been sacked from his post a month earlier, was then sworn into office. 

Higher and Tertiary Education minister Amon Murwira, appointed by Mnangagwa, told NewsDay newspaper in Harare this week, that the Mugabe university “was not a priority.” He said the government was looking at supporting university projects in other parts of the country.

The cabinet approved the proposed Mugabe university after the project was launched by the so-called G40 faction within Zanu PF which was heavily supported by former first lady Grace Mugabe. 

The university was due to be built on Mugabe property in the Mazowe district, about 40 km west of Harare, in the heart of Grace Mugabe’s farming empire.

It is here, in this district, that Grace Mugabe has, since 2002, launched several projects including construction of two large and expensive schools, more than 30 houses, and an orphanage. She rebuilt and expanded a sophisticated dairy, and also runs several well-equipped, sophisticated commercial farms all of which were taken from whites and a local black-owned company. 

The two-storey schools were officially opened by Robert Mugabe in 2013, and are named after his wife, Grace. 

Earlier this year the education ministry ceased paying about R2 m subsidies for 18 students for mathematics and science studies at the Grace Mugabe high school, saying it would no longer fund extra tuition for pupils at private schools and would divert the cash to public schools. 

The schools Grace Mugabe built, one senior and one for primary school learners, charge about R40 000 fees per term. In April the schools’ administrators said it had 19 teachers between the two schools, but admitted its pupil numbers were reducing since Mugabe left office. 

The schools have other extra expenses to cope with, as the police, which used to guard all the Mugabe family's properties, including the schools, were withdrawn shortly after Mnangagwa was sworn into office. So now the schools have to provide their own security. 

After he was pushed from power, Robert Mugabe’s eldest nephew, Leo, said his uncle was looking forward to becoming a full-time farmer, and he praised Grace Mugabe. "I like the spirit she has … she is with him all the time. She is an amazing person. She wants to continue planning the Robert Mugabe University so they have something to do.”

It has never been clear where Grace Mugabe secured cash or loans for her expensive projects and for other properties she bought in Zimbabwe recently and her R43 million home she bought in Sandhurst, Johannesburg last year. 

Independent Foreign Service